When is the last time someone told you, “I’m proud of you”? Not for what you’ve done or accomplished but just for being you. If you are like most people, it’s been far too long.

How to Encourage Others and Inspire Your Followers

Those four words are some of the most encouraging words to the human ear. That’s why I whisper them to our daughter every night before she goes to sleep.

No matter what she did or didn’t do that day, no matter what she accomplished or how she acted, she will hear those four powerful words:

“I’m proud of you.”

The Power of Your Words

If you are a leader, your words are magnified. Something that seems of no consequence to you can lift a team member’s spirits or crush them. If you are a parent, this power is amplified even more.

Eugene Peterson translates a passage from the Bible (James 3) this way:

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

Whether you are a company leader, a parent, a mentor, or someone that others look up to for any reason, your words hold immense power. That’s why it’s critical that your words build others up, not tear them down. They must be encouraging.

But what is encouragement? It might help to establish what it is…and what it isn’t.

What Encouragement is and Isn’t

Encouragement is telling others that you believe in them before they even start.

Most leaders think that encouragement is saying things like:

“Great job!”

“Well done!”

“Way to go!”

But that is not encouragement at all. It’s a reward. It’s what one expects after a job well done.

Encouragement, on the other hand, is telling others that you believe in them before they even start.

Offering rewards by saying “great job” is important, but it is not encouragement.

So how do you encourage others and inspire them to achieve more than than might think is possible? These six ways are a great start.

6 Ways to Encourage Others

1. Show them you care

When you take the time to learn about others, it shows that you care. This empowers and encourages them. If you are a business leader, the best way to do this is in your one-on-one meetings. If you aren’t doing one-on-ones with your team, this one-on-one meeting guide is a great start.

Take the time to learn about their family, interests, fears, challenges, and dreams. One of the single best ways to encourage others is to care about what they care about.

One of the single best ways to encourage others is to care about what they care about.

2. Tell them verbally

Use the four magic leadership words: I believe in you.

Take the time to tell your team, your friends, your family, and your followers that you believe in their abilities and that you are confident that they will succeed.

3. Tell them in writing

The great thing about encouraging someone in writing is that he can keep the note forever. I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen my encouraging notes in team members’ offices over the years.

Our daughter’s mirror is surrounded by notes Tara and I have written to her. She will be able to read those for a lifetime.

TIP: If you are a parent, do as Tara did and get an email address for each of your children. Our daughter, Aracelli, is only four years old, yet already has an inbox full of messages from us. She has a digital record of encouraging words.

4. Share with others

One of the best ways to encourage someone is to tell others how great he or she is. When you speak of your spouse in public, praise him. When you talk about your children, praise them.

At work, when you talk about a team member with a fellow manager, talk him up. Over time, it will create a culture of encouragement.

5. Trust them with more

When you assign responsibility to someone, even if you verbalize it, you are saying, “I trust you.” Trust conveys belief.

When you give someone responsibility, remember you are not only trusting them with the expectation of success, but you are allowing them to make mistakes. When you micromanage or try to “fix” things along the way, it is discouraging and demotivating. Give responsibility, trust the person, and get out of the way.

When you assign responsibility to someone, even if you verbalize it, you are saying, “I trust you.”

6. Help them

This might sound like the opposite of #5, but let me be clear that helping is not micromanaging or meddling. Simply ask how you can help them. It’s important for others to know that while you trust them, you are also there to help.

This goes beyond just helping with projects or tasks, though. Get involved in their personal development by offering to send them to professional training, seminars, classes, or other learning opportunities. Show them that you care about their self-improvement, not just their word.

Encourage Everyone

The great thing about each of these is that they are effective in any environment. They work in the office, at home, in your peer groups, and literally everywhere.

When you show that you care, tell others that you believe in them, talk positively about them to others, trust them with important things, and help them succeed, you encourage them to believe in themselves and accomplish more than they thought possible.

Make a commitment today to practicing just one of these six ways with your team, your colleagues, your family, and others and you’ll be well on your way to being a positive influence. You’ll encourage others and build a tribe of inspired followers.

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

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11 thoughts on “How to Encourage Others and Inspire Your Followers

  1. David Mike says:

    Some of these I do already but some I need to pick up. Thanks Matt. BTW, I am proud of what you are doing to change the world. Your podcast is amazing and I listen to every episode.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Thanks David. That means a lot!

  2. LadyMcKermit says:

    Great post Matt, I do a lot of these already but it’s a great reminder to stay on that track and not deviate! I love that Araceli has an inbox of love and encouragement! Great parenting at work!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Totally Tara’s idea. I take none of the credit but get a lot of the joy that comes from it.

  3. Steve Pate says:

    Great timing on this post, as of yesterday, our Pastor shared the top three “phrases” people want to hear, No.1 “I love you”, No.2 “will you forgive me?” and No.3 “When is supper?”. I think “I’m proud of you” should be a strong number four! Or a three!

    But to your question, In the last two years, I’ve been really careful what I say about people when they are not around. Even the other day, I was biding out a job, and I seen some mistakes the other contractor made, it was tempting to point it out, but instead, I made a choice to point out the good they did do. I wanted to help ease the pain a bit to the future client that he didn’t waste to much of his money.
    Great Monday post Matt.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That is awesome Steve. You don’t have to be blind to mistakes, but nitpickiness is just plain annoying 🙂

  4. Heidi Bender says:

    Write thank you notes 🙂

  5. sherri James says:

    Very helpful. I immediately popped a positive email to my #2 person. Thank you.

  6. Payton Heckman says:

    Hi Mr. McWilliams! My name is Payton, and I found this article while looking for articles on encouragement (for National Junior Honors Society) and I found this. The article is amazing, but to properly give credit, I need the date of publication. I can’t seem to find it, so could you please tell me when you published this article? Thanks!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Hey Payton,

      February 7, 2015. Hope that helps!

  7. bart siegwart says:

    Mathew. Thank you. I am writing a sermon on Encouragement instead of judgement and discouragement. James 3:5-8. Have a blessed day !

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