Every culture has its share of buzzwords and phrases. These are typically created from shared experiences, but excessive use can diminish their flavor and meaning.
The idea of encouragement may seem simple, but from our experience working with thousands of teams and leaders, most people have forgotten how to effectively encourage others.
Most of the time, we try to encourage each other using these common phrases:
- “You can do it!”
- “You got this!”
- “I believe in you!”
- “Go get ‘em, Tiger!”
While these phrases aren’t typically used to bring others down, they have been so overused that they have lost their flavor and likely don’t provide the encouragement we intend for our audiences. The purpose of this article is to provide some simple, practical steps to bring meaning and impact back to the way we encourage others.
One of WinShape Founder Truett Cathy’s many impactful one-liners was centered around encouragement. He would ask, “How do you know if someone needs encouragement?” He would then respond with, “If they are breathing!”
As humans, we all need encouragement because we all need courage. We all need courage because we all have fears; every single one of us. Our specific fears may differ from person to person, but fears exist in all of us.
One of the negative aspects of fear is that it can cause paralysis or procrastination. Moving forward and initiating action amidst our fears requires courage, so the purpose of encouraging others is to help provide the courage they need to move forward.
If everyone on the planet needs courage in one way or another, it is critical that we ensure that the encouragement we give is truly effective in helping others move forward.
Below are three practical steps to ensure our encouragement is accomplishing its purpose.
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Fears
While it is important to remember that everyone needs encouragement, not everyone needs the same level of courage in every setting. Heights don’t bother me that much, so I need less courage to operate at height than others. However, I have a huge fear of disappointing people I care about, so I need a lot more courage when making hard or unpopular decisions.
The first step in making encouragement effective is to find out where your team members need courage the most. Likewise, share with your teammates where you need the most courage. Keep in mind that you get to choose the depth that you share. It may not be necessary to share your deepest fears in life, but share more of what fears most commonly affect your contribution to your work teams.
Sharing with my team that I need more courage when facing a hard or unpopular decision provides them with the information they need to specifically and effectively encourage me in those settings. It also empowers my team to take initiative with their encouragement rather than passively waiting for me to act.
Step 2: Keep Encouragement Specific and Targeted
As a reminder, general encouragement is not as helpful as we initially believe. Effective encouragement is not about whether or not I believe in my teammate.
A more impactful way of saying “You can do it!” is to say, “I believe you can do it!” Encouragement becomes more effective when the focus is less on what we believe and more on helping them believe they can.
To do this well, we must encourage others in a targeted and specific way to show them our encouragement is meant specifically for them and what they are dealing with.
Consider the questions below about the person you are trying to encourage:
- Who is it I am trying to encourage?
- What are they trying to accomplish?
- What gifting, talent, or skill do they possess that I can affirm?
- How do they like to be encouraged?
- What steps can I take to encourage them?
Encouragement is not about benefiting us but enriching others. Whether you are a follower of Jesus’ teachings or not, the following Bible verse can be helpful to remember when trying to encourage others:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
Step 3: Make It a Habit
Naomi, one of our WinShape Teams instructors, is one of the best encouragers I know. I shared with my team about my insecurities coming into my current role as their team leader, and she has been encouraging me ever since.
Naomi is intentional about sharing with me the value I am adding to not just her, but the entire team. She did not encourage me once and forget me nor does she simply flatter me with empty praise every time she sees me. She quietly pays attention and seems to always provide the encouragement I need exactly when I need it.
I am becoming a much better encourager because of the example she is setting for me. I tend to think very highly of the people I get to work with, but I am not always quick to share what I am thinking about them. I also sometimes get so distracted by my own tasks that I forget to look up and notice what my teammates are going through.
I have challenged myself recently to start making the encouragement of others a habit. I am beginning to “look up” more often to notice the challenges others might be facing, and I am becoming more eager to share with others the value I see in them. We all must become more eager to encourage each other, and we can do so with discipline to ensure our encouragement is effective.
If you hear a voice trying to convince you that the other person does not need to be encouraged, take a leap and do it anyway. If a human is breathing, they need encouragement; however, take that specific human into account. Instead of giving empty praise or providing a flavorless buzz-phrase, meet their specific need in a way they are most likely to receive it. Also, make encouragement a habit by looking up and committing to it daily.
Finally, if you’re reading this, you are also breathing, which means you need encouragement as well. Do not forget to share with your team where you need courage the most, and work on receiving the courage you need from others. Encouragement is a two-way street that we all need to take more often.