A simple lesson HR can teach managers is the power of encouragement has to increase engagement and productivity amongst employees.
Encouragement at work can foster human spirit. It promotes self-sufficiency, builds capacity, and provides context — all intrinsic motivational forces. It’s dignifying to devote time reassuring and inspiring team members. Further, it develops trust, clarifies expectations, expresses appreciation, encourages desirable behaviour, and focuses on a better future. In short, an encouraging conversation is authentic.
When I get the opportunity to talk with employees privately, they often say they’d like more encouragement from their boss. Managers don’t always appreciate the need to be encouraging. They often assume that having an encouraging conversation with a team member doesn’t have any real benefit. Not surprisingly, there are too few encouraging conversations at work.
Show how much you care
There’s a saying attributed to former US president, Theodore Roosevelt that, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Regardless if he’s the one who said it, I think it’s an insightful statement.
Remember: All the persuasive techniques in the world can fail you if you neglect the power of emotion. Showing a genuine interest and care for others is the beginning point for great leadership.
Unfortunately, I think some managers have the misguided belief that showing warmth, encouragement, and a caring attitude will somehow adversely affect employee performance. These managers rationalise that the team member may go ‘soft’, lose their edge, or lower their standards.
Nonsense. Encouragement will almost certainly do the opposite, if done genuinely. Best of all, opportunities to engage in encouraging conversations are perhaps among the easiest to identify in our working relationships.
Social status and significance
Sincere recognition is a powerful motivator. It feeds our human need for significance.
In their book Why should anyone be led by you?, authors Goffee and Jones write: “Followers want to feel significant.
“In simple terms, they need recognition for their contribution. Social psychologists have made repeated pronouncements on this profound human need for recognition. So it is remarkable how often as individuals we seem to want it but not give it.”
Perhaps it’s a fear that our praise will be rejected that holds us back. Or maybe there’s something in our psyche (or organisational culture) that says we need to be ‘hard’ rather than ‘soft’.
Whatever those misconceptions might be, if you want to encourage quality conversations then regular affirmation, recognition, and appreciation is going to have to be present. There’s plenty of research that shows our human need for ‘positivity’, and that maintaining a realistically positive perspective helps us be more creative and productive.
One of the simplest, most effective and yet most neglected way to encourage can be expressed in two words: thank you. Thank you for showing such initiative; thank you for staying back late to complete that project; thank you for speaking up yesterday during the meeting and expressing your point-of-view; thank you for dealing with that customer so professionally under difficult circumstances.
Like all useful feedback, if it’s done in the right place, at the right time, in the right way, with the right intention, to the right person, it will be a source of encouragement.