“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Can you remember the last time a friend, colleague or a boss gave you an encouraging word – some intentionally thoughtful expression that directly conveyed another person sincerely believed in you and in your ability to achieve?
Assuming you can, I’d like you to recall how this gesture made you feel.
I’m willing to go on record and say that I’ve never outgrown the need for encouragement. I know for certain that reassuring, hopeful and inherently esteeming words have a profound effect on me. They act like a booster-charge on my spirit, hearten me to stay the course when I’m confronted with doubt and, quite often, influence me to aim higher. Almost always, encouragement from others leads me to believe more firmly in my own abilities.
So, am I very different from you – or anyone?
A few years ago, a friend gave me a copy of Stephen King’s wonderful book, “On Writing.” I remember feeling great surprise after reading the book’s dedication. King, one of the most prolific and successful writers on the planet, thanked another author, Amy Tan, for giving him the encouragement to write it. Stephen King needed someone else to reassure him before writing this book?
The lesson here is that no matter how much success we have at any point in our lives, all challenging tasks seem daunting at first. Supportive words from people who care about us, therefore, have a great effect on emboldening our resolve.
As leaders, we very often take for granted that our employees, especially the most tenured ones, are entirely self-sustaining and get up every morning sufficiently confident in taking on the day’s challenges. Thinking this way will greatly limit your effectiveness as a leader not to mention the achievements of your people.
Here are five extremely powerful ways you can bolster your employees’ motivations and, quite literally, give them the heart to take on the seemingly impossible.
1. Ask Employees For Their Ideas
Solicit your team for their ideas on how you can solve a legitimate and significant business problem. Tell them you consider them experts and would appreciate their best thinking on how to get things fixed. Ideally, you’ll later use many of their ideas to move your business forward (people love contributing this way), but expressing your personal appreciation to anyone and everyone who offers a suggestion inherently reinforces that you value them. Up goes the self-esteem.
2. Send Inspiring Team Communications
When your employees have fallen behind on their goals, leaders have a great opportunity to inspire and encourage. Very often when a team is underperforming, managers get freaked out and feel inclined to give a collective scolding (the expression “sales beating” emanates from this state of mind). When you resist this temptation to instead convey that you believe in your team and its ability to recover, an invisible but nonetheless powerful energy gets distributed. I’ve never seen anything more effective in stirring emotion and driving improved performance.
3. Spend Time With Someone Who’s Struggling
Many years ago, a relatively new employee of mine was struggling to make sales and came to me in despair. She felt deeply unsuccessful and wondered whether it was time for her to quit. In that moment, I offered to sit down with her and to listen to her presentation. Surprisingly, her approach was exceptional; she’d just lost her confidence. I told her directly that she needed to relax, trust herself, and to know she was about to soar. And that’s all it took. That same person worked – and excelled – for me in progressively higher roles for the next 17 years! All she needed was some encouragement.
4. Disclose Fears You Had When Confronted With Similar Challenges
It’s very likely that your employees are performing tasks you’ve already mastered. But, if truth be told, you weren’t always the star you are today. So have the guts to tell your people about the times when you doubted your ability to learn a skill, achieve a goal, or overcome a setback. That kind of honesty builds enormous trust, but it’s also wildly inspiring. People see where you are today and the challenge in front of them suddenly seems more doable.
5. Send Employees An Article Or Quote That Made You Specifically Think Of Them
Deep down, we all want to feel cared about – especially by our own manager. So the next time you come across a newspaper article or magazine story that reminds you of someone on your team, cut it out and give it to them. Knowing that your boss thinks about you after work is uplifting – and motivating!
Final Thoughts: My best advice to leaders is that you always leave people with the most positive vision of their futures. The expression “I believe in you” is an extremely powerful way of communicating that. And to my Tweetfriends, blog readers and all others who have kindly taken a moment to send me your words of encouragement, it’s important you know how much those gestures mean to me and how often they keep me motivated to do what I do.
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PS: After this article was posted, all of the social media counters on our website mysteriously reverted to zeros — and all historical share counts were lost. All links now are working!