Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Importance of Encouragement

James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their superb book, A Leader’s Legacy, Jossey-Bass, 2006, write that “No one likes being taken for granted. No one likes being ignored, overlooked, or dismissed. Friends don’t like it. Spouses don’t like it. Children don’t like it. Parents don’t like it. Employees don’t like it.”

Yet, in the week between Christmas and New Year’s day, people are stretched, worn, and often ignored. The rush up to Christmas is a big push. Along with the standard holiday parties and family events, many people work hard to complete major projects, fundraising, and the defining of 2011 first quarter goals and priorities. Then, after Christmas every one begins focusing on the New Year.

And in between and all around these two big holidays, life goes on. There is still day to day operations. Problems still surface and need to be solved. Customers still need service and still come in with questions. For many employees, it is the same old stuff that needs to get done, just a different day.

In the midst of these on-going and not always very interesting standard operating procedures, some executives, managers and supervisors forget a critical component to short and long term success, namely the importance of encouragement. As Kouzes and Posner remind us in the aforementioned book, “Work is about letting people know they’re important, their hard work and efforts matter, and they’re doing a good job.” Yet, in between Christmas and New Year’s day, many leaders are so focused on the future that they forget to be encouraging on a daily basis.

Some respond to this observation by noting that employees are paid whether or not they do a good job or a great job. A matter of fact in many places they are paid just for showing up! They believe that praise and recognition are not really needed if people just show up and do their job.

But we need to remember that praise and recognition do matter. People who feel “the roar of approval for a job well done” engage with problems, fellow employees and customers in positive ways. They act with a deeper level of commitment and engage in better ways to solve problems.

Now before everyone rushes out to say thanks, give out mission focused certificates of appreciation, or make up laminated plaques with witty quotes on them, let us recall that it is the depth of authentic concern, respect and appreciation that is most important. As Kouzes and Posner note, “We need to accept and acknowledge that nothing really significant can ever be achieved unless people feel appreciated by their leaders. People who are ignored aren’t going to put forth the effort it takes to sustain greatness.”

In the last few days of 2010, pause and take stock of your people. And then, in a thoughtful and respectful manner go out and appreciate those who are making some thing happen and doing a good job in spite of the difficulties that surface. When people know they are making a difference, and when they know that difference is meaningful, they will work hard to push through their challenges and keep doing it over and over again. Start today by giving the gift of thoughtful appreciation and genuine support. It is vital to your organization’s future.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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