Encouragement Required

If you’re an Authentic Leader then you have accepted the responsibility of helping the people you lead reach their full potential. That’s an awesome responsibility!

The task of helping others reach their full potential is multi-faceted. You’re a coach, teacher, sometimes a disciplinarian and always a motivator. You demonstrate that you care for the people you lead and you know that caring doesn’t stop at the end of a work day.

You are also an encourager. You’re an encourager when things are going well and when things are not going so well. You look for opportunities to encourage every member of your team because you understand that every member of your team needs encouragement.

The need for encouragement has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the people you lead. Your top performers need encouragement as much as your people who are not currently performing near their potential. It’s a human thing. Everyone needs and responds to encouragement.

A common mistake that many leaders make is assuming that a compliment and encouragement are one and the same. They are not. They are in fact distinctly different.

A compliment is an expression of praise or congratulations. They most often sound like “good job” or “nice hat” or something along those lines. We could do an entire post on how to give a compliment but we’ll do a short version here.

A true compliment has two parts. The first part is the expression of praise. That’s where most people stop. When we stop with the simple expression of praise we can leave the recipient of the compliment wondering why we gave it in the first place. They may question our motives and wonder what we expect in return.

The second part of the compliment leaves no doubt in the mind of the recipient about why they are receiving the praise. The second part is what I call the “evidence.”

For instance, if the compliment includes something about “good job” it should immediately be followed with “the reason I say that is….” If you have no concrete reason for giving the compliment then don’t give it. The second part of the compliment deepens the significance of the praise. It makes the compliment more “real.” A compliment backed up with evidence has staying power for the recipient. It shows the sincerity of the compliment giver and gives the compliment itself much greater impact.

Encouragement is different from a compliment. Encouragement is about you as a leader sharing your courage with others. It’s about supporting their efforts, most often verbally but sometimes by digging in and physically helping them complete a task.

Encouragement is about building the confidence of your people and offering them hope. Sometimes it’s about shining a light on the hope that exists in a seemingly hopeless situation.

People often need encouragement when they have been delegated a new or unfamiliar task. That encouragement can sound something like this: “I asked you to do this because I have complete confidence that you can get it done. You have the brains, experience, and knowledge required to do this well. I have total faith in you, I believe in you, I’m certain you can and will do this well. I’m here for you as you undertake this assignment and I’m excited about what you’re going to accomplish.”

As you can see, that’s very different from a compliment. Compliments and encouragement are both excellent tools commonly used by Authentic Leaders. It’s also a common mistake of new leaders to think compliments are enough to encourage their people. They are not!

Encourage your people early and often. You’ll likely see more growth than you…or they ever thought was possible.

How to Give a Sincere Compliment

When talking about giving compliments I suppose I have to get this part out of the way right up front. “This part” is the part about when to give a compliment. I also suppose we have to talk about what to compliment…and maybe what NOT to compliment.

This has gotten much tougher over the years. Let me give you an example. A friend of mine works for a large medical device company. He has worked there for a number of years, he is a well regarded engineer and has a spotless employment record. Not too long ago he was suspended for complimenting a female co-worker on her appearance; specifically how she looked in a new sweater she was wearing.

The woman he complemented seemed to appreciate the compliment. His problem started when a person who was not even a part of the conversation overheard the compliment and was offended by it. They thought it was inappropriate and offensive that he was commenting on another employees appearance.

They thought it was so inappropriate that they complained to the HR department. After a short “investigation” my friend was suspended. That might cause a person to swear off giving compliments entirely.

Did I mention that the co-worker my friend complimented was also his sister? Did I mention that he had given her the sweater for her birthday a few days before?

Even though situations like that might cause some people to completely stop the practice of giving compliments I still recommend giving them.

But give real compliments.

A real compliment has two parts.

Part one is the compliment itself. “I appreciate the extra effort you put in to help that customer work through their technical issues.”

Part two is the evidence that supports the compliment. “The reason I say that is I watched your interaction with the customer. Many people would have become frustrated with and dismissive of the customer. You kept your cool and turned a negative customer experience into a positive one.”

Have you ever received a compliment that caused you to wonder about the motives of the person giving you the compliment? It’s likely that they didn’t provide evidence to support the compliment. That evidence leaves no doubt as to the sincerity of the compliment.

Don’t give half a compliment. Always attach supporting evidence so no one has to wonder about your motives. If you can’t think of any evidence to support the compliment then ask yourself if the compliment is really worth giving. I’d suggest that it’s not.

In the politically correct world in which we now live I’d also suggest keeping your compliments focused on performance and abilities. It’s not “safe” to comment on things like appearance anymore and the reality is that in many cases it probably always was inappropriate.

But real compliments can change a person’s day. Maybe even their life. So look for real reasons to compliment others. As Dale Carnegie said, be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

Give Sincere Compliments

Has someone ever given you a compliment and you weren’t sure of their motives? Perhaps it was even subconsciously. Maybe you downright wondered if they wanted something in return.

     

It’s nice to give compliments. It’s better to give unquestionably sincere compliments. The kind that leaves no doubt that you mean what you said and that you expect nothing in return. Sometimes we throw out complements in a sort of mindless fashion. We mean what we say but we don’t put enough thought into it to make certain the person on the receiving end knows how sincere we are.

     

An unquestionably sincere compliment actually has two parts. The compliment and the evidence to back it up. Think of it this way; you give someone a compliment and then notice a questioning look on their face. The look indicates that they may be wondering why you said that.

     

So don’t let them wonder.

     

Immediately after giving the compliment add “and the reason I say that is.” The “reason” is the evidence. It adds depth to the compliment and supports it’s sincerity. It leaves no doubt as to your motive for giving it. The compliment becomes more valuable.

     

This takes a bit of work, it requires some thought before you toss out the next “nice job” compliment. It’s worth it however when you see the difference in how people respond to what you’ve said. Give it a try and see for yourself.

     

I can’t end an article about giving compliments without at least mentioning the proper way to receive one. Never give a compliment back. By that I mean when someone says “nice shirt,” don’t respond by saying “this old thing.” When you say that you’ve refused the compliment and may have offended the person who gave you the compliment.

     

The only proper way of responding to a compliment is to say “thank you.” Nothing more is needed. Just say thanks!

The No Recognition Zone

If you’re in a leadership position then you must know this absolute fact: people need and respond to recognition. If you’re actually going to lead however you must do more than know it, you must actively practice the skill of recognizing those you lead. 

 

People have needed recognition since…well since Adam complimented Eve on her choice of apples….okay, so that didn’t work out so well but you get my point.

 

It’s amazing to me that even though they know this fact so many people in leadership positions fail to recognize their people for their efforts. I guess they just get busy or they think their people already know that they are important to the organization. (I’ve used those two poor excuses myself)

 

But the most effective leaders are never too busy…or lazy, to recognize their people. They are incredibly intentional and consistent with recognition and compliments for their team. They make it a point to look for reasons to compliment; they make it a habit to recognize someone on an almost daily basis. 

 

Authentic Servant Leaders create a culture of recognition within their organizations. They understand that recognition helps keep their people engaged and motivated. 

 

As a leader you simply cannot afford to fail in this area. You must set aside time in your day just for this purpose. I often ask leaders of organizations what their greatest asset is within their organization. They almost always say it’s their people. 

 

Then, in very nearly the next breath, they tell me that they don’t have the time to consistently recognize their people. When I point out that spending time on less important things while pretty much ignoring their greatest asset is not a great recipe for success they realize the mistake they have been making.

 

Don’t make that all too common mistake, plan some recognition time into your day. Encourage others on your team to recognize their fellow team members, make your organization one where even the little successes are celebrated. If the recognition is done with sincerity it never gets old. 

 

If your organization is known as a no recognition zone, well that kind of environment gets old pretty darn quick. 

 

So right now, reach out to someone in person, through a phone call or even an email and let them know they matter, let them know you recognize and appreciate them and their efforts. 


It truly takes so little time when compared to the value it will add to their day. So go ahead …do it now!

How to Give a Compliment

Ever wondered if a compliment you received was sincere? Others wonder that about the compliments you give sometimes too. 

Every compliment you’ve ever given may have been sincere and heartfelt but sadly some people do use compliments to manipulate others. That can make even your sincere compliments suspect too.

If you want to make certain that your compliments are received with the same sincerity as they are given then prove that they are sincere.

Just like with anything else you hope to prove you’ll need evidence to offer as proof.

An unquestionably sincere compliment really has two parts, the actual compliment and then the evidence that supports it as true and sincere.

For instance, I could merely tell someone that they did a nice job. They can then begin to wonder what I meant, they can wonder if I really meant it and they can wonder if I’m expecting “something” in return. In short, they can wonder about my motives. 

If you’ll just put a little more effort into the compliments you give you can take all the wonder out of them.

As an example… I tell someone that they did a nice job. Then I add…”the reason I say that is because I used to do that job. I can tell by your results that you paid great attention to the details required to achieve that excellent result. Not everyone cares enough to do that, I appreciate that about you, your results say a lot about who you are. You truly did a great job!”

There is not a whole lot to wonder about there. In almost every case a compliment, when backed up by evidence showing why you paid the compliment in the first place, will be accepted at face value. The more specific your evidence is the less wonder there will be.

It’s not a lot of effort to make the compliments you give truly matter but there is one more thing you can do to make them truly last.

Put them in writing! Investing 5 minutes to write out your compliment, with the supporting evidence, will make an even bigger difference than just saying it. Investing a few minutes to write out your compliment can increase it’s significance ten-fold. 

It takes so little yet it means so much. If you’re going to give a compliment then really, really give a compliment. 

Try it, I can almost guarantee that you’ll like it and I can absolutely guarantee that the person you compliment will love it! 

Do Your People Know?

I’m sure your people know what they’re doing. The question is: do your people know that what they are doing matters? Do they know that they do important work? Do they know that they are valued? 

As a leader, you need to be certain that they do. Knowing that what they do matters will make a big difference in how well they do it. When they know their role impacts others they become better team players and will “out perform” their own expectations.

Never critique or criticize your people without also telling them why it matters that they perform at a higher level, how their efforts “fit” into the big picture. Don’t wear out your leadership by constantly pushing your people – let them know they and their job matters and they will push themselves a bit too.

Your people need many things to perform up to their potential and none of those “things” is more important than recognition. Consistent, intentional, meaningful, and sincere recognition. If you’re a leader and you can’t find a reason to regularly recognize your team members then you must have the wrong people in the wrong positions. 

By the way, “nice job” is a cliche, not recognition. Recognition is specific, it offers evidence to support why the recognition is being given. It requires sincere thoughtfulness to provide genuine recognition. Don’t just recognize, invest the time to recognize correctly. 

Telling yourself that your people don’t need recognition or don’t deserve recognition is the excuse of a lazy leader. If you’re not giving your people their due then YOU need to step it up and actually lead.

I know you’re up to it, you know you’re up to it. You know how important it is. You know it’s the right thing to do. 

The only question is…. will you do it? 

How to Give a Sincere Compliment

Has someone ever given you a compliment and you subconsciously questioned their motives? Perhaps it was even subconsciously. Maybe you just downright wondered if they wanted something in return.

It’s nice to give compliments. It’s better to give unquestionably sincere ones. The kind that leaves no doubt that you meant what you said and that you expect nothing in return. Sometimes we just throw out complements in kind of a mindless fashion. We mean what we say, we just don’t put enough thought into it to make certain the person on the receiving it knows how sincere we are.

An unquestionably sincere compliment actually has two parts. The compliment and the evidence to back it up. Think of it this way; you give someone a compliment and then notice this look on their face. The look indicates that they are wondering why you said that.

So don’t let them wonder. 

Immediately after giving the compliment just add “and the reason I say that is.” The “reason” is the evidence. It adds depth to the compliment, it supports it’s sincerity. It leaves no doubt as to your motive for giving it. The compliment becomes more valuable. 

This takes a bit of work, it requires some thought before you just toss out the next “nice job” compliment. It’s worth it however when you see the difference in how people respond to what you’ve said. Give it a try and see for yourself. 

I can’t end a post about giving compliments without at least mentioning the proper way to receive one. 

Never give a compliment back. By that I mean when someone says “nice shirt,” don’t respond by saying “this old thing.” When you say that you’ve just refused the compliment and may even have offended the person who gave you the compliment.

The only proper way of responding to a compliment is to say “thank you.” Nothing more is needed. Just say thanks! 

Hey, while we’re at it, thanks for reading this post.