Part Four in a Four-Part Series – Building Engaged Teams.
One of my clients, who owns his own company, was lamenting about the lack of enthusiasm in his people.
He said, “why do these people (meaning his employees) need CONSTANT encouragement?” I could hear the frustration in his voice as he vented. “They aren’t children; why do I have to motivate them all the time? Shouldn’t their paycheck be motivation and encouragement enough?”
He then went on to explain that he never needed anyone to motivate him. In his youth he had a paper route at 8 years-old. Then his first “real job” at only 15.
Does this sound familiar? As leaders, when we’re tired and busy, encouraging our teams can feel like a burden.
But, when we let that ball drop, you end up like my client…
An owner with a group of people who don’t have the same level of passion for his business that he does. (Surprised?)
In reality, even the most dedicated employee will never have the same passion as the owner. But, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be passionate. You just have to keep that fire burning.
That’s why I remind him (weekly in our sessions) that he MUST keep encouraging the teams. Every….Single…..Day….
When a client begins to doubt the importance of encouragement, I show them the research. The Psychology of Encouragement: Theory, Research, and Application by Y. Joel Wong
According to Wong, encouragement matters, but how you encourage matters even more. Wong defines encouragement as “an expression of affirmation through language or other symbolic representations to instill courage, perseverance, confidence, inspiration or hope…”
This is important because encouragement is often thought of as a subjective concept. You may think your attention or feedback is encouraging…but your employees may not perceive it as such. In fact, unless you’re deliberate about it, they may not even notice.
Telling your team they did a good job as a project is winding down is nice..but it’s not encouragement. Encouragement happens along the way, not just at the end.
What can you do to make sure encouragement is happening in your organization?
1. Make it real. It isn’t enough to think nice thoughts or flash a thumbs up. You have to actually tell them. Or, show them in a concrete way. Consider the actual words you say, not the “intention” behind the words. It’s the words and actions that will make the difference.
2. Recognize how far they’ve already come and push them to continue. Much like your trainer would do for you at the gym! He/She doesn’t say, good job, keep going……. They say you’ve already done 5 reps, you only have 2 more, keep going! It’s concrete and it demonstrates that they’re paying attention!
When you encourage teams, use the same type of language. Say something like, “you’ve already accomplished so much in this project, you’re close to the finish line!” It’s that little push that keeps them going. You believe in them, and they want to prove you right.
3. Be Sincere. No fake words; your teams will see through that, and you’ll lose credibility and respect. You know what it’s like to hear fake praise…”you’re so amazing, I love watching you work!” Ugh… it will mean nothing. Not to mention that you won’t get the results you want. Fake encouragement is as obvious (and as useless) as a counterfeit $50 bill. It might serve in a pinch, but you can be sure you’ll get burned in the end.
4. Create a coaching culture. Encouragement can (and should) be the norm in your organization. Build it into your routines. It’s like when your’e learning a new sport. You’re encouraged each step of the way by coaches, trainers, and friends. If you weren’t there’s a good chance you’d give up. Sports coaches know how important it is to encourage the process, not just the result. Teach your managers to do the same.
5. Encourage everyone…even those at the top. It isn’t only the lowest tier of employees who need encouragement. Everyone needs it. Yes, even you. Keep it simple, but real, and do it often.
At the end of the day, if you want engaged teams, you must first be an engaged leader. What will you do today to engage your teams?
Cynthia Corsetti is an Executive Coach and Speaker. If you’d like to learn more on how her C.A.R.E. to Engage system can help you create an engaged workforce in your organization, you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org