I recently had the opportunity to watch one of my favorite college basketball teams win their quarterfinal contest in the NIT.
What was so memorable about this game was that one of the team’s stars played even though he was sick. He contracted the flu before the game and was not expected to play. He went to the coach and told him that he would give his all, with the stipulation that when it became apparent that he could no longer compete, the coach would pull him from the game.
This player managed to play 20 minutes and score 10 points despite his illness. What was most inspiring about his performance was the encouragement this player received from his teammates, his coaches and the crowd. The energy in the arena was electric. Being there and experiencing the situation, it was obvious that this player and the team were elevated to a higher level of performance.
This experience made me stop and reflect about the type of atmosphere or environment we create with those whom we work. Creating a culture of encouragement goes a long way toward elevating and improving the performance of our associates and co-workers. Here are some questions to help you evaluate whether your leadership contributes to a culture of encouragement.
Nothing is more demoralizing than to have a leader who openly expresses his or her doubts of the importance of a task and has little good to say about it. Attitudes are contagious -- those who are negative create negativity around them, while positive attitudes promote positivity. Leaders should examine their attitude and do whatever they can to express optimism and positivity toward whatever goal that people are set to accomplish.
Do you trust your team to meet your expectations?
Trust is a necessary ingredient for effective encouragement. You can’t sincerely encourage someone unless you trust them to do their job to the best of their ability. Once you have given clear directions, you need to allow individuals to complete the tasks at hand without micromanaging them and the outcome. The expression of your trust will empower your team members to perform well, increase their skills, and encourage them to be successful.
Are you patient when things don't turn out as planned?
Sometimes your expectations may not be met. When this happens, check the clarity of your directions. It is also a good opportunity to identify why the desired results were not achieved. Additionally, you might assess whether individuals were lacking skills or resources to be able to successfully complete the assigned tasks. This may be a good opportunity for you to teach and coach those individuals to grow and develop new skills which will lead to future success.
Are you supportive of the work and efforts of others?
When you don’t receive the desired results, you have an opportunity to express continued encouragement in their efforts and reassure them that you know that they will succeed. Doing so will instill the confidence necessary to achieve the desired results.
Do you express appreciation?
Sometimes the only time that a person may hear from their manager is when they haven’t performed as expected. This leaves people thinking that the only time anyone cares what they do is when they make a mistake. Rather than allowing people to constantly guess whether or not they are performing as expected, you should take every opportunity to express heartfelt appreciation for the efforts of others whether the task be small or large. You also want to encourage others to express appreciation to members of the team. Cultivating a culture of appreciation will increase both morale and productivity.
Do you ask for and provide feedback?
Effective managers ask for feedback about what they can do better to help others succeed. They also provide timely feedback when their expectations are not being met. Individuals want to know when they are not meeting expectations and are open to learning what they need to do differently. Waiting until the end of the quarter or even the end of a year to find out that their performance leaves much to be desired can be frustrating and does not produce timely results.
Are you inclusive in sharing the objectives that you are trying to meet?
Often as a leader, you deal with high-level issues that don’t concern your staff. But when appropriate, share what you’re grappling with and help them understand how their work contributes to the objectives of the department. Doing so demonstrates that you consider them an integral part of your team and appreciate their contributions.
Do you ask for the viewpoints of others?
Asking your team for their input not only may provide you with needed information, but it also establishes the opportunity for others to ask questions. You want to establish an atmosphere of candor and openness that will help promote overall effective performance. As people share their perspectives, there will be ample opportunity to express appreciation for what is shared and to encourage others to do the same. This additional information provides learning for everyone and develops an understanding of what others are doing and the challenges that they are facing.
Obviously our work teams aren’t necessarily like playing basketball. However, there is something to be said for how we treat others on our team and the deliberate attempts we make at recognizing others for their efforts and encouraging them to continue to do their best in providing value in what they do. After all, lifting one another is how we lift ourselves.
John R. Stoker is the author of “Overcoming Fake Talk” and the president of DialogueWORKS, Inc. He has been in organizational development work for over 20 years helping leaders and individual contributors to learn the skills to assist them in achieving superior results. He has experience in the fields of leadership, change management, dialogue, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence, and has worked with such companies as Cox Communications, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, and AbbVie. Connection with him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
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