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:

  • When you get encouragement, does it help you perform at a higher level?
  • If you are a leader (and we all are), are you looking for ways to encourage and build up those whom you lead?
  • Think of ways that you can be brave (like Barnabas) to encourage someone who is recovering from something wrong they have done or from a failure in life?

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.

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.

Thinking Leaders – Stand for Progress!

Non-progress in India

Previously, I wrote on the first two leadership principles in the last chapter of The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. They were to “trade minds with the people you want to influence” and to ask yourself “What is the human way to handle this?” This week I want to discuss the third principle on “how to think like a leader.” 

Principle 3:  Think Progress, Believe in Progress, Push for Progress. 

Experience with non-progress:

I have had the privilege of traveling in India on three occasions over the past decade. On each of those trips, I was able to experience the life of Indian people in a very rural context (small villages, back woods, dirt roads). One of the aspects of these people and towns that struck me over and over was the fact that so many of them were using tools and methods that their ancestors would have used over a century ago. They were content to keep using short, homemade brooms that caused their backs and knees to hurt. Some used wooden, ox-driven carts to carry hay for their water buffaloes while the younger generation zips around on small motorcycles or plays games on their iPhones. Everywhere I looked, I saw examples of people who were not progress minded – and just continued doing what they had always been doing.  

Turning this personal:

But then I think about myself. Am I always progress-minded? Do I believe that I can and should improve? That there is opportunity for progress in our company or my family? I am recognizing that I need to “think progress” – or I might drift on the status-quo and be stagnant like all those people I encountered in India.  

Guidance from Dr. Schwartz:

David Schwartz provides helpful guidance as he said, “there are two special things you can do to develop your progressive outlook:  

  1. Think improvement in everything you do. 
  1. Think high standards in everything you do.” 

He tells a story of a teacher he had one year that did not believe in progress. She didn’t seem to care about the students or really believe that they could improve. She was not respected and the students ran over her all year long. Not much progress because there wasn’t a belief in progress. The teacher he had the next year (with the exact same set of students) set the tone from day one that she loved the students, believed in progress, and expected excellence from each of them. She received respect all year long – and progress was made. She “thought” improvement and had high standards.  

We are challenged to remember that the team, group, or family you lead will “adjust themselves to the standards you set” (and example you provide). They want to know if you think progress and what level of progress you expect of them.  

Helpful quotes to remember:

“Check the example you set. Use this old but ever-accurate quatrain as a guide: 

What kind of world (company/group/family) 
would this world be, 
If everyone in it
were just like me?”  

“The simplest way to get high-level performance is to be sure the master copy is worth duplicating.” 

Wow! That quote is good. I just wrote that down in the back of my planner!  

Application Questions:

Are you a progressive thinker? Or do you drift in the status-quo?  

  •  I know that it is a mix for your spheres in life – so think about progress opportunity in each life domain.  

Reference: Schwartz, David. “How to Think Like a Leader.” The Magic of Thinking Big. Touchstone, pp. 275-302.

Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Thinking-Big-David-Schwartz/dp/1897384424/

Thinking Leaders – Trade Minds and Be Human

Skiers following a leader

I just finished The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. Great book for you to put on your reading list. Yes… it is a “self-help” book – but it was written in 1959 and has sold millions of copies – so it is time tested and still standing! I found it to be very relevant and had many topics that were personally encouraging or challenging. I really liked the final chapter so I decided that I will discuss it with you through three messages (so I don’t write one that is way too long!)  

The closing chapter is titled “How to Think Like a Leader” and provides four leadership principles to consider as you engage in any form of leadership. We’ll dissect and discuss the first two today and attack the other two in the following weeks.  

Principle 1 – Trade minds with the people you want to influence 

This principle is really about seeing other people as significant individuals who have their own hopes, fears, interests, values, etc. They are not an object and they are not exactly like you or me. We cannot put people in cookie-cutter boxes and expect to be a driving influencer for them. We have to “keep this question in mind: ‘What would I think of this if I exchanged places with the other person?’” We will have more success in leading others, selling something, or gaining approval if we first “think of the interests of the people we want to influence.”  

He tells a story of a young lady who failed in retail procurement because she always purchased clothes that she liked for the store. Turns out, her taste in clothes and expectation of price was not even close to that of the store’s typical customer – so the clothes didn’t sell and she lost her job.  

Schwartz also provides some helpful situational questions to ask yourself. Here are a couple: 

  • The way I give orders – “Would I like to carry out orders if they were given to me the way I give them to others?” 
  • Preparing a speech – “Considering the background and interests of the audience, what would I think of this remark?” 

Application Question: What area of your life would benefit from implementing this principle? How would you do it? 

Principle 2 – Think: What Is the Human Way to Handle This? 

He starts off saying that there are three approaches to leadership situation – as the Dictator (who never involves subordinates in decisions), as the mechanical “rule-book-operator” (who is a manager by the book, no questions necessary), or as what he calls “Being Human.”  

The leader who takes the “be human” approach makes his actions say, “You are a human being. I respect you. I’m here to help you in every way I can.” Your approach in all circumstances shows that “you put people first” – because you’re all human and can address situations as humans would.  

Schwartz tells an impactful story about a business leader who saw every one of his employees as being “under his protection” and would go out of his way to serve his staff. When he needed to let an employee go who was not well suited for the position, instead of just kicking them out, he made connections and assisted the person in finding another job so they were able to transition directly without unemployment. Now that’s a high standard worth emulating! 

“Practice praising people. Rub people the right way. Be human.”  Or I like the way C.S. Lewis puts it – “be a good infection” in your relationship with others.  

Both of these principles have a striking similarity to the Golden Rule spoken by Jesus – “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” (or “treat others the way you want to be treated.)  

Application Question:  With whom can you “be human” today? What would change in your relationship? 

 

Reference: Schwartz, David. “How to Think Like a Leader.” The Magic of Thinking Big. Touchstone, pp. 275-302.

Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Thinking-Big-David-Schwartz/dp/1897384424/