Encourage the Heart by Setting Clear Standards

www.thestrongwork.com

Leaders who strive for the success of their team would do best if they encourage the heart of their people through setting clear standards. Being specific and clear about the expectations of your team members provides a foundation for encouragement and the possibility for excellence.

What the experts say!

In their book Encouraging the Heart, Kouzes and Posner claim that “the first prerequisite for encouraging the heart is to set clear standards.” They explain that by “standards” they mean both the goals and values for the organization. Clear communication from the leadership of a company is essential to establishing the culture and foundation for encouragement.

My experience with clear standards

In my career with small businesses and non-profit organizations, one of the hardest things I have had to work through has been understanding the standards and expectations for my work. What is my responsibility!! Some leaders just march forward with a mess in their wake and have unspoken expectations for their team. They assume you will read their minds and figure out the right work to do – because they simply think it is the best or most obvious work.

This is especially tough for me as an Enneagram 1 and a C in the DISC profile. For those who don’t understand what that means – I am analytical and have an inner drive to be right, precise, and accurate. You might respond differently than I do, but most of us like to at least have confidence that we doing the right work for the right reasons.

Helpful research on clear standards:

Our research shows that values make a difference in how people behave inside organizations and how they feel about themselves, their colleagues, and their leaders. We know that people expect their leaders to stand for something; that they expect them to have the courage of their convictions; and that credibility is the foundation of leadership. The first step toward credibility as a leader is clarifying personal values.

Kouzes & Posner in Encouraging the Heart (49-50) Tweet

They demonstrate from their research that people clearly respond better when their personal values match with the communicated and followed values and standards of the organization. Leaders must explain (often!) what they expect of their entire team (values) and of the individuals (standards). 

Encouragement, it can be said, is a form of feedback. It’s positive information that tells us that we’re making progress, we’re on the right track, we’re living up to the standards.

Kouzes & Posner in Encouraging the Heart (58) Tweet

Set the tone for excellence!

When leadership sets the tone for excellence, and lives up to it, the team will know what excellence looks like and clarity on how to achieve it. We can be encouraged by our progress toward a goal and thrive within an atmosphere with values they believe in.

Reference:

Kouzes, James and Barry Posner. Encouraging the Heart – A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others. The Leadership Challenge, 2003. 

Link to Purchase

Photo Credit:

More on Encouragement

Encouraging the Heart – How to Build Up and Speak Life!

Encouragement - Become who you are

Our hearts broken, burdened, or bored. Our hearts need encouragement. This post explores what it means to encourage the heart and begins a conversation about how to live that out as leaders, colleagues, and friends.  

Build Up and Speak Life

I believe that every person on God’s green Earth has innate value and was created with purpose and has vibrant potential to be successful in that purpose. However, we have the tendency to allow relationships and circumstances to derail our life journey and burden us away from the excellence we can achieve. We need people in our lives who can speak life into us and encourage our hearts to persevere and enjoy life.  

A couple leadership gurus named James Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote a great book called “Encourage the Heart” which provides great insights into how we can build up and speak life into those around us – especially those under our leadership.  

The word encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart.” To encourage – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart.

Kouzes & Posner - Encouraging the Heart (pg. xv) Tweet

The Impact of Encouragement

Every person in your life has a heart that needs encouragement. As a leader, you have the opportunity to serve others by giving or your heart “so that others may fully develop and experience their own” (Intro – xvi). People need to be affirmed for who they are the potential that is within them. They need to hear that their unique contribution is noticed, appreciated, and valued. Providing that does not require much of you, but can be life changing for the individual receiving the encouragement.   

Studies featured in the book provide evidence of the results of genuine, regular recognition and encouragement. People perform better and live happier lives when they regularly affirmed for their life and work.  

Use Names and Say Thank You

I have developed a habit that every time I go to a store or event where people wear name tags – I address them by their first name. When we go out to a restaurant, we ask the waiter or waitress for their name and aim to use it when they take our orders and refill our drinks. Often people are surprised when I use their names but I can usually recognize that they appreciate it. Try it out yourself and demonstrate to people that you recognize them as individuals and that they matter.  

I also try to say “thank you” whenever others serve me. It may be the waitress’s job to refill my water, but I can still demonstrate appreciation for her service. It isn’t difficult to thank your co-worker for the tasks they completed, or thank your spouse for grocery shopping or doing the laundry, or thank your boss for the opportunity to work for them. It isn’t difficult – but it is very impactful.  

The secret is this: we all really do want to be loved.

Kouzes & Posner - Encouraging the Heart (pg. 11) Tweet

Featured Photo

Image has a Creative Commons license. It was posted on Flickr by user “craftivist collective” and can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/42839495@N07/6237667320

Reference

Kouzes, James and Barry Posner. Encouraging the Heart – A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others. The Leadership Challenge, 2003. 

Link to Purchase

Further Encouragement!

Read this post for more encouragement – Strength through Encouragement

Strength through Encouragement

Encouragement

Many may think that they don’t need encouragement in order to perform at their best. “I got this! I can buckle down and get it done without encouragement!” But then we always appreciate when people recognize and affirm our hard work, personal growth, or other achievements. It does not show weakness to give or receive encouragement – but it does take some courage! 

It takes a strong leader to be a good encourager. We receive strength through encouragement to excel in our journey in work and personal life and perform at our best.  

Motivating through Affirmation

Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book called The 5 Love Languages in which he explains that each of us give and receive love in different ways. I find that my primary love language is affirmation – as it is for many others – so I thrive off hearing encouraging words from my wife, family, colleagues and friends.  

Dr. Chapman (with Paul White) also wrote a book called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace in which he takes the Love Languages concept and applies it to the workplace. As I read that book, I found that I am motivated by the cause/mission of the organization and through affirmation for my work.  

“We believe that people in the workplace need to feel appreciated in order for them to enjoy their job, do their best work, and continue working over the long haul.” (27)

“Appreciation, when expressed in the primary appreciation language of the individual, tends to motivate each team member to reach his or her potential. When we feel appreciated, we are motivated to “climb higher.” Conversely, without appreciation, we often settle into mediocre performance, often far below our level of capability.” (117-118)

Many of us could learn a lesson from these wise words and consider how we can motivate others around us through encouraging words of affirmation. Figure out what somebody does well or how they are growing as a person and affirm them through a specific word of encouragement. Look for the positive in others and build them up so they can reach their potential and become stronger versions of themselves. 

Barnabas :: A Classic Example of Encouragement

There is a story in the Bible where a man named Saul was the primary antagonist against the early Christian movement. He was committed to bringing them down through intimidation, persecution, and imprisonment. Then, he had an encounter with Jesus and made a drastic 180-degree switch to becoming a committed Christian and promoter of their message.

As you can imagine, some of the leaders in the Christian movement were skeptical of his heart change and resisted his involvement in their community and ministry. However, a brave, generous man nicknamed Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”) was willing to put his reputation on the line to trust Saul (renamed as Paul), vouch for him, and encourage the other leaders to accept him as a genuine follower.  

Building up a "Failure"

Later in the story, Barnabas gave another Christian (named Mark) a second chance after he had abandoned them on a journey. Barnabas obviously encouraged Mark and helped him mature because some years later he became the author of the Gospel According to Mark. The unique encouragement of Barnabus to build up a young man who had made a major blunder led to the writing of (arguably) one of the more important pieces of literature ever written.  

Barnabas was not a leading, central character – but he built a great legacy by giving strength through encouragement.

Application Questions:

Reference:

Chapman, Gary and Paul White. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Northfield Publishing, IL. 2011.

About the Photo

My wife and I went to New Zealand in 2013. It was a phenomenal trip! This photo was taken on the South Island near Mount Cook at the south end of Lake Tekapo at the Church of the Good Shepherd

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy this one about recognizing other individuals for who they truly are: Shift to See the Other.

Finding Community During COVID

Community

.Virtually every American (and nearly every human on the planet!) has been forced to adjust to find community during COVID in different ways. Whether you are introvert or extrovert – we all have an internal craving for relationships and shared experiences with others within a community.  

It may provoke you to ask the questions of:  

  • Why do we crave community and feel that something is missing in our lives without it? 
  • What are the different ways that we find community? 
  • How do we find community when all our normal, traditional places of community are closed or empty?

Why Do We Crave Community?

As with any fundamental “why” question, there are various views on this topic. I believe that each of us were created with this internal craving for belonging and friendship because our Creator knows that is best for humanity. We become better versions of ourselves while we are in community but become unhappy, apathetic, and (usually) unproductive without it.  

Each of us is born with different personalities, gifts, and talents – so we naturally have strengths and limitations. If it was just me (or everyone was just like me), then there would be nobody to compliment my limitations and, therefore, provide a complete picture of humanity. We are a beautiful harmony of unified diversity when we are in community – not a single staccato note or a clanging cymbal.  

We can all agree on this: We desire to love and be loved in return. This can only happen through relationships found within a community. 

The Third Place

Most of us have a first place (the home/family) and a second place (the workplace) but tend to desire a place where we can relax with familiar people in a familiar place and laugh while engaging in interesting conversations. We are envious as we watch shows like Cheers and Friends as they find unique community in a bar or coffee shop. These local places of community have become known as “the third place.”  

In 1989, a German sociologist named Ray Oldenburg wrote a book called The Great Good Place where he coined the term “third place.” We find community in these third places because we feel accepted and they encourage and inspire us to become better versions of ourselves.  

Coffee Shop Community
Coffee Shop in Ethiopia

Personally, I am fortunate to have several third places. I find this community through my church, a men’s small group, a weekly soccer game, and the co-working space where I work (Work Hub).  

This Psychology Today article and this Wikipedia page help provide more context on Oldenburg’s concepts and more explanation of third places. 

The COVID Pandemic Challenges Community

But what do you do when your typical third place is closed due to a global pandemic!?  

I went through several phases during this pandemic – and I get the feeling others had a similar experience. At first, it welcoming to stay home and spend more time with my family and get more projects done around the house. But then I began to really miss my friendships and started calling them and encouraging Zoom meetings. But then… I just needed to get out(!!) and be with people and get back to my third places.  

Community in a Solitaire App Game

I did, however, find a unique community in a most unexpected place. I had gotten a new phone and, of course, it came loaded with the promotional apps that you didn’t ask for. One of those apps was a game called “Solitaire” by GSN. I got in there and played a few games and thought it would be an entertaining and slightly challenging leisure game. But then I got invited into a club (which I didn’t know was a thing) called “Texas Four” and introduced to this special group of people from all over the United States and Canada.

They love each other. It is a special thing to experience. On the simple chat-board, they check in every day with encouragement, personal stories, prayer requests, you name it. They play for each other and encourage the team every day. I am usually in the bottom with points within the game – but I’m still encouraged along by the club.  

To the Texas Four club members – Thank you for providing a unique community during this pandemic season. I wish the best for each of you (app names) – Wanderer, Squig, Shuffles, Gran/Wa, JayRay, Jim, Mrs. Bullit, Cara, Kristine, Suemac, Cards, Sun, Turtle, Rawr, KrAzY d, Supercool, Donkey mom – and the rest. Play on!

Solitaire App - Texas Four Club
Solitaire Tripeaks by GSN

Questions to Consider:

  • Why is community meaningful and necessary for you? 
  • How did you find community during the COVID Pandemic? 
  • What do you think we can learn from my story of the Texas Four solitaire club?  

Photos in the post: 

Featured photo: This was taken of me, my wife, and a group of friends in a coffee shop in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 2015. 

Inset photo: I took this photo in 2011 when I went to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A local took me to an old coffee shop which explained how coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia. 

Moving from Me to We

Moore, OK Tornado

Success or conflict hang in the balance with every relationship due to perspective and attitude. The concept of “Moving from Me to We” was developed by my friend (and pseudo-mentor) Thomas Bookhamer (more on him below) in order to address our approach to relationships, especially in leadership and the workplace.  

The first step to becoming a truly effective leader and having greater influence is learning to be others-focused; this is what I call moving from me to we.

Thomas Bookhamer – The Leaders Factor

Why We Have Conflict 

I truly believe that a person’s perspective of another person, and the communication that occurs due to that perspective, is the core issue that determines the success or failure of relationships. If we have a preconception or bias against a person or a whole group of people (such as in racism, etc.) then your perspective is set against being favorable toward that person.  

It may be subconscious, but you are going to look for ways to support your bias in your interactions with that person. They cannot win! You are rooting for them to fail to support your bias! You aren’t really trying to help or understand them – and indifference or conflict is bound to happen in the relationship.  

In their books, the Arbinger Institute calls this “being in the box” and having a “heart at war” toward that person or group. I wrote about this topic in a previous post – here.

How to Move from Me to We 

However, if we see the other person as an individual who has value and vast potential – and we earnestly desire good for them – then we have the capability to move from Me to We. A relationship has the potential to flourish IF we approach it with the rich, fertile soil of mutual respect, love for humanity, and optimism for success.  

At first, you may have to be intentional about helping others reach their potential. Effective leadership is not about how far we advance ourselves, but how far we advance others. 

Thomas Bookhamer – The Leaders Factor

In his book, Thomas challenges leaders (and all of us lead to some capacity) to have the mindset of desiring to add value to others. If you are focused on yourself – “What’s in it for me” – then you are using people as objects and you are bound to create conflict. However, if you are others-focused, then you can focus on a “We” centered approach and develop valuable collaboration within a team atmosphere.  

The tough step for a leader is to decide to develop and empower others for success. Hear your team’s input. Truly connect with them as individuals. Develop their strengths. Encourage them through challenges, support their limitations, and celebrate their victories. Then you will have moved from Me to We. 

Application Questions:  

  1. Do you know the personality type and the strengths and limitations of your team (or family, group, etc.)? 

  1. When you communicate with them, do they feel that you truly value them and their input? 

  1. What can you change to ensure that you are rooting for the success of others? 

Thomas Bookhamer information: 

Website: https://journey.leadersfactor.com 

Book: The Leaders Factor

Email: thomas@leadersfactor.com 

Story behind the feature image:

In 2013, a massive tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma and left incredible destruction in it’s wake. Organizations and countless volunteers went in to help them clean up and begin to recover. I included this because it is an example of many people moving from Me to We in the relief effort. We can identify with these relief efforts as large groups become “others-focused” and serve those who were affected. 

Below are more photos from our short volunteer effort. The cars in the below images were picked up by the tornado and dropped in the middle of a guy’s pasture.