The importance of building community for your team through encouragement cannot be overstated. Many managers use negative comments, manipulation, and underhanded gestures to try to get others to do something they want done. This approach is discouraging, and discouragement removes courage. It literally freezes your team members with fear.
Encouragement is the emotional fuel people need to do the things they are afraid to do.
Everyone has fears, and we all need courage to face those fears and grow out of our comfort zones. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and everyone lacks confidence in some area of his or her life or work. We all need someone in our life to encourage us to do the things that we may be afraid to do, whether that is taking on a new role at work, pursuing a goal, or facing a difficult situation. Phenomenal leaders care about others, and as a leader, you can reap tremendous benefits and see increased implementation as a result. When encouragement becomes part of your company culture, others will fill that role as well, as team members begin to encourage one another.
Fear Is Counterproductive
Fear produces stress, harmful chemicals that are extremely taxing on the human body. An unhealthy amount of fear among team members produces an unhealthy organization. A stressed-out team member simply isn’t going to be effective long term. Creating an encouraging environment creates more peace and harmony in the workplace. Your company can be the safe haven—the place where team members look forward to coming each day. The extra bonus is that people who have lower stress are healthier and are therefore present and more productive.
Fear may be a constant companion to some of your team members, and they need someone to encourage them. Getting rid of fear is not the goal. Instead try to show them they can find success by moving forward in the face of fear. That’s courage. As a leader, you can be an encourager to your team, and that will inspire emotional trust. The reason that’s important is because you haven’t truly connected with someone until you know his or her true feelings and that he or she is buying into you and your vision.
Many people aren’t naturally positive and don’t naturally encourage others. Whether that is because they lack confidence themselves, they don’t have the awareness of the importance or encouragement, or they’re downright selfish, we tend to live in the “me” generation. In order to build community, leaders must move from me to we. Many leaders aren’t confident themselves, so they revert back to “command and control” rather than care and coach.
Build Community for Your Team Through Encouragement
Ted Talk sensation Simon Sinek struck a chord with his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, and continued to inspire those seeking to understand the depths of leadership with Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. The title of Chapter 3 is “Belonging: From Me to We.”
Here’s an excerpt from that chapter: “This feeling of belonging, of shared values and a deep sense of empathy, dramatically increases trust, cooperation and problem solving.” Using the United States Marines as an example, he says “they operate in a strong Circle of Safety.”
“This feeling of belonging, of shared values and a deep sense of empathy, dramatically increases trust, cooperation and problem solving.”
He talks about the fact that the world around is filled with danger—things trying to make our lives miserable:
“Intimidation, humiliation, isolation, feeling dumb, feeling useless and rejection are all stresses we try to avoid inside the organization. But the danger inside is controllable and it should be the goal of leadership to set a culture free of danger from each other. And the way to do that is by giving people as sense of belonging . . . only when we feel we are in a Circle of Safety will we pull together as a unified team . . . the primary role of leadership is to look out for those inside their Circle.
Once you’ve taken the first two steps, value true community and pursue champion connections, you’ll have created a fertile environment for the next step, which is to inspire emotional trust—demonstrating commitment to the individual through the investment of time understanding people’s heart, affirming their value, and giving them hope. You inspire emotional trust by encouraging the heart.”
Here’s what leadership legends Kouzes and Posner had to say in their book Encouraging the Heart:
“Leaders create relationships, and one of these relationships is between individuals and their work. Ultimately we all work for a purpose, and that common purpose has to be served if we are to feel encouraged. Encouraging the heart only works if there’s a fit between the person, the work, and the organization. . . .
And the heart of leadership is caring. Without caring, leadership has no purpose. And without showing others you care and what you care about, other people won’t care about what you say or what you know. As a relationship, leadership requires a connection between leaders and their constituents over matters, in the simplest sense, of the heart. . . .
Encouragement is about being generous and charitable. It’s about having a “big heart.” When leaders encourage the heart of their constituents, they are also showing how profoundly grateful they are for the dedication and commitment others have shown to the cause.”
In case you’re wondering whether this idea is too “soft,” consider what else they had to say:
“It’s about the toughness and tenderness. Guts and grace. Firmness and fairness. Fortitude and gratitude. Passion and compassion.”
“The heart of leadership is caring.”
—James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
Encouragement Breeds Productivity
A positive, caring, upbeat attitude doesn’t create entitled employees who become unproductive. Research clearly shows that people who feel cared for will care about the company and work harder for it. The natural progression of building community for your team goes from support (valuing others at a high level and building a relationship with them by serving them), to encouragement (inspiring others and affirming their gifts), then to accountability (helping others become the person they want to become).
Howard Partridge, author of The Power of Community: How Phenomenal Leaders Inspire Their Teams, Wow Their Customers, And Make Bigger Profits and founder of Phenomenal Products, annually provides seminars to thousands of small business owners. He has served over 1,000 coaching clients in the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, Costa Rica, Holland, and the U.K. through his exclusive Howard Partridge Inner Circle Coaching Community.