Chief Encourager: The #1 skill a Great Leader Needs to Master
Being a great leader today is tough. You need to be smart, agile, open-minded; the list goes on and on. However, to help others obtain their highest potential, the most critical skill any leader (executive, supervisor, teacher, coach, or parent) needs to master and execute is the ability to “Encourage.”
Encourage = In-Courage
The word encourage comes from the Old French word encoragier, meaning “make strong.” Have you ever actually thought about the word “encourage” before? To encourage is to put courage in another person. When you encourage, you are filling another up with courage.
I know for me personally the only reason I accomplished certain things earlier in my life was because I didn’t have the heart to let people down who believed in me. Remember those who gave you a second (and third and fourth) chance, allowed you to screw up, and gave you the opportunity to make it right? Are you the person that, when people speak about their success, will talk about the belief you had in them, long before anyone else? Your faith and constant encouragement would not allow them to fail.
Employees do not quit companies—they quit managers
Is your team willing to walk through a fire for you? Have you demonstrated that you would walk through a fire for them? Are you their biggest cheerleader? Studies have shown that the reasons people leave their jobs are directly related to how connected they feel at work. The Family and Work Institute has found that compensation and benefits have only a 2 percent impact on job satisfaction, while quality and workplace support have a combined 70 percent impact. Retaining employees is not a function of the human resources department. Employees are most engaged when they feel as though their work is important, they are appreciated, they learn and grow, and they feel a part of a great team.
In fact, the single most important determinant of an individual’s performance and commitment to stay with an organization is the relationship that individual has with their immediate manager. People leave their manager far more often than they leave the organization.
Caught you doing something right!
Do you have a system that reminds and inspires you to encourage others on a consistent basis? In my companies, one of the most effective tools in boosting morale is our “Caught You Doing Something Right” card, which acknowledges some specific positive action or behavior a team member has executed. We keep stacks of these cards in the employee break room, call center, and any other room a team member may enter.
We started using them as a management tool, and now everyone has access to them. An employee may open their drawer and find a “Caught You Doing Something Right” card thanking them for helping someone through a mini-crisis the day before. Most employees collect and save these cards.
Our management team is required to catch people doing something right on a regular basis. This is so embedded in our culture that we now have a spreadsheet with every employee’s name down one side and each manager’s name across the top. The manager fills in the date they last sent that employee a “Caught You Doing Something Right” card. This way we can spot when someone hasn’t been recognized in a while and immediately “catch” them.
We have even held “Caught You Doing Something Right” contests, where the employee who gives the most cards wins a gift certificate to a nice restaurant. The entire team really gets into it. One shy employee went home one night and wrote out 111 personalized cards to everyone on our staff.
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