In our series on Extreme Leadership, this is the last installment on the topic of Influence. We’ve looked at empathetic problem-solving, body-language and positive energy. Now we want to turn our attention to perhaps the most powerful influencing behavior of all: encouraging others.
You may think I’ve gone totally “puppies & rainbows” with this one but trust me, the human need for encouragement ranks right up there behind food, water, and shelter–and yet often goes unmet. The late Truett Cathy often said:
How do you know if someone needs encouragement?…. If they’re breathing, that’s how.
Leaders are often going through life at a high speed and encouraging others is usually not something that comes naturally to them. I have worked hard to improve in this area but have to be very intentional in order to avoid falling back into the cycle of simply finding problems and fixing them without stopping to consider this universal need. I find that the more pressure I’m under, the less encouraging I tend to be. Perhaps you can relate.
Even though I struggled with being an encourager early in my leadership journey, I still needed encouragement just like everyone else. I even expected encouragement from my wife, from my employees–and was angry if I didn’t get it! As the leader, I should have been showing the way, encouraging those around me at every opportunity.
So if we know the need for encouragement is universal and we know that it is our job as Extreme Leaders to be a consistent source of encouragement, how do we do it? As with all parts of leadership, it’s a process, but I’d like to give you three takeaways today that I believe will help you in your quest to influence through encouragement.
If we give general, vague encouragement it usually lacks impact and can even come across as insincere. Think of specific things that are praiseworthy–things for which you are genuinely grateful to someone and then communicate those things clearly. It is very difficult to make guarantees in the area of human behavior, but if you can develop this one habit, I guarantee you it will transform relationships, build trust and gain you enormous influence!
A while back I had the privilege of attending a father/son retreat with my son Jackson. One of the most powerful parts of the retreat was a session in which the fathers stood up one by one to say publicly that they were proud of their sons. I had heard this leadership lesson on encouragement by then and so was careful to clearly state several specific things about his character and who he was that I was extremely proud of. It was–not surprisingly–a very powerful moment that left us both teary eyed. Thankfully I had asked another father to capture video of the scene so Jackson could be reminded of it repeatedly.
2. Use Technology to Your Advantage
Speaking of video, I think it is a great idea to utilize technology to overcome some of the obstacles of encouraging others. Top level leaders are often very busy and the already difficult task of being a consistent encourager is made even more difficult by the pace of life in the 21st century, remote work situations, and constant distraction.
If we wait until we are personally present with someone whom we intend to encourage and then wait for a “good time” to do it, the encouragement will rarely happen. Instead, whip out your fancy phone and record a quick video to send or, better yet, Facetime call them and give them the encouragement they need.
3. Get Accountability Partners
Place people within your inner circle who will be honest with you when your push for excellence becomes unbalanced. When we’re going hard it’s easy to forget to encourage the people around us–our families, friends, and employees. This can result in them feeling like nothing they do is ever good enough. This is a very discouraging environment that will leave your people defeated and disillusioned. Unfortunately, I know this from experience. If you don’t have people around you to point out when you get off track you could be missing it and not even know it!If you put in the effort to become a habitual encourager, I guarantee that your influence will grow… Click To Tweet
It is imperative that Extreme Leaders push for excellence in their organizations and even in their homes. Doing this sometimes requires that we critique and challenge those around us to raise their performance to a higher level. Consistent encouragement not only provides the balance in the equation, it also builds the trust necessary to push a bit more often and a lot more effectively.
What are you doing to encourage the people around you? I find it’s so much easier to get out my mental checklist and point out what my kids/wife/employees are doing wrong but much more effective and rewarding to take the time to encourage each of them personally. Remember, people matter more than things–even big things.
If you put in the effort to become a habitual encourager, I guarantee–yes… guarantee–that your influence will grow significantly.