5 Principals of Encouragement

5 Principals of Encouragement

As a coach I have the honor of getting to hear people’s very personal thoughts, fears and insecurities. We all have them.  

We also all get to experience overwhelm at times. At times of overwhelm our fears and insecurities tend to get louder. 

Often when I write about aspects of resilience I am writing about what you can do to be more resilient. Today is about resilience but the focus is on how you can support the people around you. (The obvious personal application here is to surround yourself with people who know how to encourage you - or teach the people who surround you how to encourage you.) 

To encourage is to build up. Oxford defines it as: “Give support, confidence, or hope to (someone)”. That looks different at different times and we all appreciate encouragement in different forms. Let’s look at a variety and your job is to pay attention to the people in your life in order to know what will “land” best with them. 

Principle #1 - Keep it About Them

“I’m proud of you” may be encouraging, depending on the relationship, but it brings the focus back to the person saying that.  

“Watching you speak to our frustrated customers is very inspiring.” This example is about the overall impact of that person’s behavior and skills and remains more about them. 

“We are watching in awe at what you are creating.” This is one I got this week that landed for me at a time of overwhelm. It was powerful because the words also reminded me that what is happening around me right now is big, it doesn’t just feel big. It reminded me that it is worth it to keep pushing through - that the effort is working.  

Principal #2 - Be Specific

“You are doing a great job”. Nice but without the detail the recipient does not know what specifically they are doing that is being appreciated. They are not clear on which skills, talents, habits, attitudes, etc. you are pointing to.  

“Your ability to stay calm and ask clarifying questions when the customer is mad really calms the customer down and increases the chance of them staying with us. Amazing.” This points to specifics and it doesn’t bring it back to being about the speaker. 

Principal #3 - Let it Land

Many people are expert at deflecting positive feedback, praise, recognition and compliments. We can help the encouragement to take root by helping it to “land”. This can be as simple as pausing after giving specific positive feedback. (Yes, this may be an awkward silence - you can handle that!) 

Your feedback may be greeted with denial or minimization. That’s when you can take your gloves off, lol. I often pull out humor at this point. “Let’s try that again …” If you really want to play hard ball you can point out that their dismissing of your feedback is dismissive of your perception of reality (but use this one sparingly - it is not about you). 

Principal #4 - Get Them to Do It

Even better than really encouraging someone is to partner with them to encourage themselves. This makes it land more effectively often too. It is powerful and intimate and it builds trust. “I’ve been watching you with our customers. What specifically do you think you are doing that is working so well?” 

Listen well to them. Don’t let them off the hook easily. Get them to be specific. Mirror back to them what they are noticing. “Your patience is really obvious and it is a very powerful asset you are using.” 

Principal #5 - Make it Cultural

Encouragement should not just happen at the bi-annual review. This needs to be part of how we communicate with each other every day. If this kind of encouraging specific feedback is not part of your work or family culture then start making a culture shift! 

Give this kind of feedback often. Ask for feedback for yourself. (Yes, this will feel strange at first but it will give permission for others to do the same!) 

Talk about the power of encouragement - share the principles (mine and yours) for doing this.  

Be more vulnerable about your need for it - if you are a strong leader this may shock people. That is a good thing. 


Your homework, should you choose to accept it, is to think of specific things for 3 people and go encourage them before the week is over! click to tweet

Until next week, 


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Marilyn Orr is a Professional Certified Coach, who, through her coaching business “Capacity Building Coaching”, thrives on building both personal and organization capacity through leadership coaching and development.

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