Effective Encouragement: creating a SPARC in those you lead

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Encouragement gives life! Whether you are trying to lead volunteers, your family, employees or friends…encouragement breeds life, productivity and effectiveness.

The tongue can bring death or life (Proverbs 18:21)

Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (Proverbs 16:24)

So how do we take full advantage of the power of encouragement? Effective encouragement creates a “SPARC” in those we lead and those who are around us. To create and deliver effective encouragement our encouragements must be specific, give perspective, add value, be regular and calculated.

Specific

Make your encouragements very specific. There is a big different between, “You do a great job” vs “I was so proud of you and thankful for you yesterday when you went out of your way for that upset customer. That was above and beyond”. Both are examples of encouragement but the more specific you are in your encouragement the more weight it carries and the more impactful it is.

Part of being specific in your encouragements is making it personal. Personal for you and them. A thank you note written and signed personally by you is much more personal and is more effective…yes, it does take longer and no, you won’t be able to do this for everyone all the time. But a good way to think is, “Do for one what you wish you could do for all”. 

Perspective

When giving specific encouragement be sure to give them perspective; why what they did was so important and valuable. Many times the people we encourage don’t always see the extent of their actions. Giving perspective when you encourage helps people see the bigger picture and how they are helping accomplish the greater goal, mission or vision!

For an organization, tie your encouragements back to your goals or the mission and vision of your organization. Within a family, show how their actions modeled the family values. Knowing that our actions accomplished something greater is a rewarding feeling…

…and what we are rewarded for we repeat

Add Value

Effective encouragement must add value to the person. Encouragement where the other person doesn’t feel encouraged is “empty encouragement” and hinders the effectiveness of our encouragement.  If we are not careful with our words, our good-intended encouragements could be received as criticism or just shallow.

“You finally did what you were supposed to do! Thank you for listening to me and getting the job done.” VS. “Thank you for being so humble and teachable! You have improved greatly and I am impressed! Keep it up!”

The first “encouragement” sounds more like a reprimand whereas the second example added value to the person by specifically pointing out desired traits (humility and teachability) while admiring their obvious success and making it personal by stating the fact that you are impressed.

Not every “Thank You” and “Good Job” will be received as encouragement. Know the person you are wanting to encourage; know what makes them feel the most encouraged. Choose your words, gestures and timing carefully to ensure your encouragement adds value.

Regular

Encouragement is typically underestimated and even forgot about which means we usually only give encouragement when we think about it. The more regular and consistent we are in giving encouragement we will cultivate a healthy and thriving culture! Culture is created by norms…is encouragement a norm at your organization or in your family? Or is encouragement something that is random and once in a blue moon? Healthy culture, healthy relationships require regular effective encouragement. Your encouragements will become more and more effective when it is regular and becomes a norm and part of your organization’s DNA.

Regular encouragement also allows room for candor and honesty. When people feel valued regularly then people become more open to periodic criticism, pushback and feedback because there has been so much positive feedback and encouragement given already. If there is not a culture of regular and effective encouragement there cannot be a culture of candor.

Calculated

Delivering effective encouragement requires intentionality, thought and planning. What doesn’t get planned for doesn’t get done. Schedule time in your calendar that does not get interrupted or changed. Use this time to write thank you notes, call just to encourage, etc…whatever strategy you come up with you need time to develop and execute that plan.

We set aside time and spend time planning and preparing for a number of other “important tasks”…Be calculated, create a system, be intentional with your encouragement and become more effective in this simple yet crucial tool.

How Effective is Your Encouragement…really?

Creating a SPARC in those you lead through effective encouragement will change your culture, the relationships and the productivity of those around you! But beauty is in the eye of the beholder…in other words, you need a system in place to find out if what you think is effective encouragement is actually being effective! The only way to do this is through honest feedback that you seek out.

Ask periodic questions, include them in your employee reviews…be creative and find multiple ways to measure the effectiveness of your encouragements:

“When was the last time someone praised you for something you did?”
“What recent encouragement has meant the most to you personally?”
“What did you do that you were proud of but no one noticed?”

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