The Price Leaders Pay For Silence
October 2, 2015
President of Trailblaze, Inc.
TopicsCommunication, Leadership, silence
Have you ever heard a supervisor say something like, “Why should I have to encourage people? This is their job isn’t it?” Have you ever thought those words yourself?
Recently, I received an incredibly strong answer to this question from Jennifer, a former store manager at a national women’s clothing chain.
Jennifer is outgoing, incredibly gifted at making customers feel comfortable, and was considered a “high-potential” by her district and regional managers. Within a year, however, she had quit.
A few months later, she ran into her district manager at a coffee shop. As they talked, the district manager expressed surprise that Jennifer had left. “You were one of the most talented, capable managers we had. You had so much to offer and you left. Do you mind if I ask why?”
Jennifer told me, “It took me a few moments to recover from the shock…the district manager had never shared any of those positives with me. I got a weekly, sometimes daily, breakdown of where I wasn’t good enough – and that was it.”
Jennifer told her former district manager, “I thought I was failing. I’m shocked to hear that I was doing anything right. I wish you had told me I was talented or capable at the time.”
Why Encourage People For Just Doing Their Job
That depends how important is it to you to keep your top performers? How much lost talent, energy, and productivity will a lack of encouragement cost you?
Human beings need encouragement. It’s a fact of life. You get more of what you encourage or celebrate and less of what you criticize or ignore. If you want a team that doesn’t need to be encouraged, get a cat. Otherwise, if you’re working with people, they need encouragement.
If you’re married, imagine what would happen if, after your wedding, you never said “I love you” or never held hands or kissed the other person. You couldn’t expect your relationship to last very long.
That’s the equivalent of never saying “thank you” or encouraging your team members. Yes, it’s their job in so much as they’ve made a commitment to your company – just like spouses make a promise to commit to one another. That doesn't mean you should take that commitment or your team’s work for granted.
3 Keys To Effective Encouragement
Recently, when I shared Jennifer’s story, an audience member asked, “How do I encourage people? I understand the concept, but struggle to do it well.” Effective encouragement requires three things:
- Avoid “great job!” Instead, try something like: “I really appreciate the extra effort you put in on that project last Tuesday. The client loved the work and renewed their account.”
- Encourage people in ways that are meaningful to them. The easiest way to find out, is to ask. When you onboard people into your team, ask them, “How do you like to receive recognition for a job well done?”
- Make sure your encouragement is related to the work and business outcomes. It demoralizes everyone when you encourage someone for something that actually detracts from the team.
Thank you for your commitment to leading well. Remember, you get more of what you encourage and celebrate. Everyone needs encouragement – they just need it in ways that are meaningful to them.
First David, thank you so much for writing this. I will be sharing it widely.
“Leave us a comment and share how you make sure to give people the encouragement they need.”
The word “encouragement” has been front and center for me lately. It is SO EASY to give encouragement. It doesn’t cost a thing, and is so easy, with some practice.
I would say for some people it might be a decision they have to make, to see what is going right, and express appreciation or encouragement — to the barista who just made you a great latte or the grocery clerk who double-bagged your groceries without you having to ask.
I believe the more we practice it is EVERY aspect of our lives, the easier it will be at work, and as a leader.
Thank you again, David, for bringing this to the forefront.
Thanks for the call to intentionality – you’ve got a great point about making the choice to see!
You have done a masterful job of including a great deal of leadership wisdom within a short post. I have heard all three of your points before, but I seldom see them linked together, which makes for a powerful combination.
I think the only thing I can add is to reinforce the importance of being mindful as we interact with others. Mary mentions several examples of these with people who provide something to us, and whom we sometimes pay little attention to while they are providing that something. As you point out, we assume others will do something for us, rather than actually pay attention and not just know they do it, but develop an understanding of how they do it.
When we are more mindful of others as we go about our daily tasks, we usually can find many specific things upon which to remark as we encourage and thank them.
Thanks for those encouraging words. Your emphasis on mindfulness is so valuable and we certainly (myself included) need more of it. Must be present to win, as they say 🙂
John, I enjoy reading your comments as much as posts 🙂 Hope you have a great week planned.