Currently in week 3 of being a new manager and I couldn’t wait until the end of the week even to start talking about this. I am realizing all the different roles of a manager and this week the theme is being an encourager. A true leader is someone who has followers primarily by their choice. What I mean is the leader may be placed in authority over someone but it takes that person choosing to follow to validate their leadership. I am learning that one of the greatest ways to earn trust and, as a result, followers is by encouraging people.
For some this comes completely natural, or at least they have conditioned themselves to make it appear natural. For others, like me, this takes a lot of effort. I know that people do good work and deserve to be recognized for it. Additionally if I were asked, I would give high praise about the person to others. My most crucial failure, however, is forgetting to let the respective person know how I feel. Often, they never even know!
Do you find yourself doing that? Not only will you fail to validate your team, you will miss one of the greatest opportunities to earn their trust and respect. On top of that, your encouragement will likely make the better performers, more confident, and able to take risks with larger payoffs. When someone has fans, they are capable of so much more. Imagine a sporting event where a player had no fans. Whether they were the home team or away, no one ever cheered for them. How do you think they would do? The same goes for your team members. Managers must be encouragers.
So what is encouragement? If it is a concept you struggle with, then you probably will think of it simply as not saying negative things that come to mind. That’s a good start, but encouragement is not the lack of criticism, it is the presence of praise. It requires action. It can be with body language, but sometimes it should be words.
Test it out. Spend a week looking for opportunities to encourage your team. Especially those who you maybe have a tough time relating to. Encouragement is a great place to start. For those with whom you have troubled relationships, it may not be highly accepted at first, but keep it up. I challenge you. See for yourself the dividends that it will return in your team. A week is probably not enough time. Really you should focus on it for at least a month. That way, it becomes more natural for your team to hear it, more natural for you to give it and more of a habit that will continue beyond that. Encourage the heck out of them and see what happens.
Also, consider it beyond your manager role. Try it at home with your wife and kids and see if it doesn’t strengthen your relationships there as well.