What Encouragement Is…and Isn’t

“I am proud of you.” When is the last time you heard that? When is the last time you told a team member or colleague that?

9 Ways to Encourage your team

Every night that I am home, which is most nights, I hold our nearly daughter in my arms and rock her in a chair before putting her in the crib. Every night she hears those exact words from me. She hears them other times as well, but she always hears them then. No matter what happened that day; no matter how she acted or what she did or didn’t do, she hears those words: “I am proud of you.”

In James 3 of the Message translation of the Bible, Eugene Peterson writes:

A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!

As a leader, this is magnified. As a spouse, it is magnified even more. As a parent, your words hold almost unfathomable power.

Telling someone “Great job” doesn’t count. “Great job” is the minimum. It’s expected after a project is completed properly.

Real leadership is telling someone before they even start that you believe in them and that they can do it. (Click to Tweet)

“Great job” or “Way to go” isn’t encouragement. It’s a reward. Rewards are necessary, but they are not nearly as powerful as encouragement.

9 ways to encourage your team:

1. Verbal. Ask to speak to them just to say “thank you” or to encourage them. You’ve heard “Praise in public…” Make sure to praise in private, too.

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2. Written. Perhaps you have heard me talk about thank you notes and other forms of written encouragement. Do it.

3. Responsibility. Trust them with more responsibility in the organization. Being put in charge of an important project is a big boost.

4. Tell others. Privately or in their presence, tell others how great your team is. Send notes to family members, talk an individual up to a fellow manager or business owner, and tell other team members about each other. It creates a culture of encouragement.

5. Share all positive customer comments. Create a bulletin board or something similar to share great customer feedback.

6. Help. Ask how you can help. Jump in and help your team complete an important project. Just be careful not to come across as meddling or micro-managing.

7. Care. Learn about them. The best place to do this is in your one-on-one meetings. You can learn more about one-on-one meetings here. Learn about their hobbies, family, pets, successes and challenges. Care about that they care about.

8. Offer training. Show them that you care about their self-improvement. Offer to send them to, and pay for, professional training, such as a leadership seminar, public speaking class, or other learning opportunity.

9. Ask them to share. When you do send them to training, ask them to share what they learned with the team afterwards. Or to share other things they have learned periodically.

What if you don’t have a team now?

The great thing about this list is that you can do most of them with anyone. You can do them with your peers, friends, and family. You can do them with direct reports, superiors, and those in other departments.

What are some other ways you can offer encouragement? What are you doing to encourage others?

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  • Wade_Thorson

    That is a great list Matt. Some of those things I do, but I guess I hadn’t associated them with encouragement but they really are. For example giving someone training is a great way to show you care about them and encourages their growth.
    Like your Ask them to share item, we occassionaly do a lunch and learn session where I would have someone on the team teach us about something that others in the group might not be quite as familiar with. They love the pizza we bring in, it encourages the employee as you mentioned, and it helps unite the team.

    • Steve Pate

      Its like Jim Collins book Good to Great, people who love to have fun together build a great company! But I hear you on the continuing education part, It means a lot to me I have a budget to spend on things that will help me do my roll better.

    • I did not either until I wrote this (training as encouraging). But…when you train someone in a skill they don’t have, you are saying, “I believe in you. You can do more. I want to help.”

      It’s a powerful message.

  • Great post. These things are so important to add value to your team. I especially like help – since sometimes leaders are perceived as too good to step into the fray – when you lend a hand, it really adds respect to the relationship.

  • I think number 4 is the best. Especially when you do it in front of their peers.

    • So true Jim! I’ve never felt better than when I talk to someone and they tell me that my boss, or someone else was just telling them how much they appreciated me. THAT is powerful!

  • Thank you notes…hmmm, I dont think I’ve ever heard you talk about that before…Interesting concept. Perhaps you could expand on that. Maybe, I don’t know, start some sort of revolution (i’m just spitballin’ here…)
    Other than that, great list!! The distinction between praise and reward is one well worth pointing out! We all get caught up in thinking we’re praising when we are just rewarding.

    • Steve Pate

      Andy Stanley-Whats rewarded is repeated!

  • I love the big-wig cc. You know, when I notice that someone does something outstanding, I send them an email telling them how good of a job they did and I cc their boss (or higher) on it. Get’s a solid reaction every time!!!

    • Good suggestion Bob. I have never done that. You should trademark the term “Big-Wig CC” by the way :)

  • Steve Pate

    Matt I love number 5. So simple but it will have great impact on our guest as they come into our lodge. Also it will be a great encouragement to us when the days are quiet. So I have two questions with that, if I would put a bullet board up with those notes, does that make us look a bit pompous?

    My other, Any bets if Lily Kreitinger will check in as she’s soaking up the entreleadership? Thanks for your talent Matt.

    • Steve Pate

      by the way, did any body notice the huge rock on that ladies finger? Some one showed her some encouragement!

    • Lily absolutely will…just to rub it in our faces :)

    • 1. No. It makes you look like you are proud (in a good way) of the great feedback you have received from other customers. That being said, it’s more for your team than the customers, so make sure you share them in the team room/offices more than anywhere.

      2. I hope so :)

  • Great list. I also send notes of praise to people’s bosses without them knowing. It’s amazing how appreciative they are that I take time to notice them.

    • Oooh that is a good one Tammy. Just like the family ones, bragging about people to their superiors is incredibly motivating!

  • If you haven’t, you should read the Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Totally changed our entire culture. It’s the only book I require every supervisor to read annually. Great list Matt.

  • Lulu

    I love that you say you are proud of your daughter – to your daughter. I longed for my dad to say he was proud of me. When he finally did – I was 34 – and it reduced me to tears in front of many. I don’t think I even knew how much my heart needed to hear it. It was too bad it took 3 top awards and being valedictorian to get the words from his lips – but it was sweet all the same. Your daughter – and all that you bless in this way – will be better for it. Kudos.

    • Wow Lulu. That is powerful.

      That is exactly why I want to tell her every day now. I tell her no matter what kind of a day she had. No matter how many timeouts or spankings she got. No matter what happens, I am proud of her and love her. She will know that.

  • Encouragement starts with a smile and a friendly word. So many of us walk around the office with a scowl and a poor attitude. Simply changing this would change the entire culture and environment we work in day in and day out.

  • It has been touched on – but just to add a bit…. my experience has been that being specific is also important. Great job! Isn’t as powerful as “you knocked int out of the park putting together the cost estimates for that project, and now we are in a position to win the contract.”

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