“Encouragement is more potent than any drug on the market. It imparts something no chemical company can: real, genuine hope.”
Tommy Barnett,co-founder of the Los Angeles Dream Center
There is a mighty power in words. Words set people up for success, or words bring them down to defeat.
And as much as I hate to say it, the world is filled with people eager and ready to spew out words of defeat. Turn on television or read the newspaper, and you are certain to see and hear a litany of bad news and dire predictions. The world is filled with cynics, discouragers, and dream-killers.
Of course, this isn’t a “modern” phenomenon. Throughout history, dream-killers have tried to shout down dreams. When Edwin Drake drilled for oil in 1859, the onlookers said, “Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy?”
When the “Boston Post” heard back in 1865 that some inventors were working on a device that would transmit voices over great distances using wires, it wrote, “Well-informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires, and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.” I wonder how encouraged or discouraged Alexander Graham Bell must have been when he read that!
Charles Duell, the director of the US Patent Office, said in 1899, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” What a slap in the face to all the inventors of his day and those that followed.
Lord Kelvin, one of the 19th century’s top experts on thermodynamics, said “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” And the “New York Times” wrote in 1936, “A rocket will never be able to leave the earth’s atmosphere.”
Darryl Zanuck, the producer at Twentieth-Century Fox, said in 1946, “Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”
Elvis Presley was even told by a successful performer at the Grand Ole Opry, “You ain’t going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck.”
The mistake, of course, is for you, me, or anyone else to listen to the dream-killers. But it’s so easy, so natural to do so.
“That’s why encouragement is so important.” says Tommy Barnett. “It holds open the possibility that the future may be more exciting, more mind-boggling than we think. It refuses to say no to an idea, even if it seems foolish. Perhaps that crazy idea is just ahead of its time.”
That being the case, how can you become an ENCOURAGER … to your coworkers … and even the folks at home?
=> 1. Help people discover their “talent zones.”
That’s what coach Faith Ralston calls them. They’re work experiences that people enjoy and feel great about. When people are working in their talent zones, they consistently contribute high value and they receive the appreciation of others.
Unfortunately, only 20% to 50% of individuals live and work in this zone. More often than not, people make the mistake of thinking their talents are “no big deal.” But they are. So help people DISCOVER their talents and help them realize how their talents add value … on and off the job.
That’s what my “Journey to the Extraordinary” experience did for Cathy Riley from AgStar. After attending the program, she called her friend Jolene Brown to talk about it and all the ways she was encouraged. Then Jolene wrote me this note. She said, “Alan, your ‘Journey’ experience was a HUGE gift to my friend, Cathy Riley. When she called me last night, she was still bubbling over, not just with enthusiasm, but with results. I’m just plain tickled to know you and see the impact you’re making.”
=> 2. Help people use their strengths.
Once people understand their strengths, then encourage them to USE those strengths. Encourage them to find projects where their strengths could be utilized, and encourage them to get involved in those projects.
=> 3. Share strength feedback.
When you see someone using their strengths, make a comment. When you see someone’s strengths making a difference, make a comment.
Sometimes people don’t even notice how their talents are impacting the projects and people around them. So point out the good they are doing. It will increase their awareness of their strengths, and it will boost their confidence.
=> 4. Give regular praise.
Everyone wants and everyone needs to receive some praise, and yet all too many managers and all too many parents do not know how to meaningfully affirm others. That’s why the number one job complaint continues to be, “You can do a hundred things right and not hear a darn thing about it. You do one thing wrong, and they’re right on your back.”
So I spend a fair amount of time teaching people how to give specific, genuine, and believable praise in my program on “The Leadership Payoff: How The Best Leaders Bring Out The Best In Others … And So Can You.” It never fails to increase the morale of an organization or the harmony of a home.
=> 5. Give occasional public recognition.
One of the most powerful ways to encourage someone else is the occasional use of public praise. Recognize and thank an individual … in front of others … for the specific strength or character quality he/she demonstrated. Explain how your organization has benefited from his/her actions.
You might even hold a “recognition session” at work. Invite employees to share their successes. Encourage them to talk about the improved service they gave or the bottom-line results they helped achieve.
To wrap it all up, I encourage you to be an encourager, a dream-builder, a cheerleader for people. The words cost you nothing to give, but they will prove priceless to those who receive them.