One Easy Way to Encourage Your Team

I took my bike to the cycling shop for a quick repair before heading out for a beautiful Saturday afternoon ride in Breckenridge. Recognizing me from the last time, the manager asked where I’d been riding so far this summer. I shared, “Oh you know Swan Mountain Road toward Keystone? It’s gorgeous, but yikes, that’s quite a hill.”

He laughed. “Karin, it’s okay to call a mountain a mountain. And that ride is definitely a mountain. If you can do that, you can ride just about anything around here.”

I thanked him for the encouragement and headed out on my ride. About 10 minutes in I had a choice…to head straight up the steep incline or take an easier route. “Hmmm…” I thought. “This is a mountain. But I do mountains.” And up I went.

It’s Okay to Call a Mountain a Mountain

When we do keynotes for companies, we always like to talk to a few of the Senior leaders as part of the preparation. Consistently one of the insights they share is, “Our team’s job is so hard! We’re asking them to do a great deal with limited resources, in a rapidly changing environment.” Or, “They’re working so hard, this is one of the toughest times our industry has ever seen.” Or “I’m so proud of this team. What we’ve asked them to do is nearly impossible, and somehow they’re making it happen.”

So then we’ll ask, “Have you told them you know how hard it is?”

Most frequent answer, “Oh, no! I don’t want to discourage them.” Or, “If I admit it’s hard, then they may think it’s okay to not accomplish it.”

And then we’ll inquire: “Is it okay if I let them know you know? Here’s why _______.”

And then from the stage we share, “We talked with ‘John’ in preparing for our time together. And here’s what we learned. Your job is hard! You have to do ___ and ____ without ___ and ___ in the context of _____.”

And a sense of relief falls over the room. There are always big smiles and sometimes applause. Not for us, but because “John” gets it.

Don’t be afraid to call a mountain a mountain.

If your team is facing a steep climb, recognize it. And then remind them of the mountains they’ve scaled before and why you know they’ll be successful.

Scott Friedman

4 Ways to Bring More Celebration to Your Organization (Scott Friedman)

Winning Well Connection

Scott has a special place in our hearts as he’s been an incredible encourager and friend both personally and professionally–and was actually on our first date (unbeknownst to him at the time). Scott is the founder of Together We Can Change the World with whom we’re on tour with during our second half of the Asia trip. TWCCTW is also our partner for our Winning Wells initiative bringing clean water wells to Cambodia.

When doing research for Celebrate! Lessons Learned from the World’s Most Admired Organizations, we asked our survey respondents: “What is essential in making celebration work in any organization?” The top for answers were: inclusivity, gratitude, play, and surprise.

Inclusivity – Making sure that everyone feels a part of the team. Everyone wants to feel a sense of belonging … it’s giving everyone a voice and the feeling that their voice matters.

Gratitude – A grateful feeling, emotion, or attitude of acknowledgment of the life we have and those that we share our life with. It’s the ability to count our blessings even when we’re feeling the pressure of daily responsibilities. It’s being thankful and showing appreciation for those that make a difference in our lives.

Play – Living in the present moment. It’s the ability to let go of anger, resentment, and emotions from the past and truly bring our best self to the task at hand. Being in this state of flow will allow humor, spontaneity, fun, and play to flourish in the present moment. How much fun is that?

Surprise – Honoring people through the element of the unexpected – surprising them with what is highest on their joy list. It’s catching people doing the right things and recognizing them on the spot. The reason celebration fails in most organizations today is that it becomes stale. There is a lack of creativity or conscious thought that is needed to make a celebration special. By learning more about what motivates employees and what brings them great joy, we can creatively add the element of surprise to their lives, and what a nice surprise that is!

Winning Well Reflection

In Winning Well we encourage recognition and celebration – after all, you get more of what you encourage and celebrate. But what really stands out about Scott’s approach to celebration is that it is more than an isolated response to something that’s happened. For Scott, celebration is a way of life. All of us can do with more appreciation of the good in our lives, our teams, and our work. You can follow up and incorporate more celebration into your life and work because Scott is graciously providing two free e-books to our readers.

Click on the images to download the books. Thank you Scott!

 

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One Reason Your Employees are Rolling Their Eyes

Have you ever had a supervisor who congratulated you for doing something that you knew wasn’t praiseworthy, or worse, something you knew actually made things worse in the long run? Or have you seen a peer recognized for their “great work” only to find yourself secretly muttering “If they only knew?”

I see this happen all the time. Managers encourage the wrong behavior, for the wrong reasons…setting off a ripple effect of well-meaning frustration. “Seriously!? He got the award, after we saved his butt for that dumb mistake?” “If you loved what I did, do you realize I had to break three stupid polices to get there? The next time I do this when your boss doesn’t have a customer breathing down their neck, I’m likely to get written up for non-compliance.”

If you want people to pick up the love you’re putting down, be sure you’re rewarding the MIT (Most Important Thing).

3 Characteristics of Encouraging Encouragement

Truly encouraging encouragement is:

Relevant

The first key to real encouragement is have a real understanding of which behaviors are driving your long-term results. For example, what behaviors lead to long-term customer retention? What leadership behaviors build employee loyalty and engagement?  Sure it’s simpler to focus only on short-term outcomes. But recognizing and rewarding short-term results will encourage win-at-all costs tactics that create long-term havoc. Your encouragement sends an important message to the employee you’re encouraging and everyone around them. Be sure you’re celebrating what matters most.

Specific

You’ve taken the time to identify your team’s relevant behaviors– your Winning Well MIT (Most Important Thing).  Be sure you’re linking your recognition back to behaviors not just outcomes. Describe what actually happened and why it is important.

Ineffective: “Hey, Bob, Great work.”

Effective: “Hey, Bob, I really appreciate the extra hours you put in on that project last week to take a deep dive into the customer’s account and uncover the root cause of the issue. The customer was delighted and renewed with us for another three years.”

If you can’t describe the actual behaviors, you’re not ready to offer encouragement because you don’t know what people did and they won’t know how to do it again. When you take the time to get specific, people know you understand their work, and you reinforce positive contributions.

Meaningful

Effective leaders know that people are different. They want encouragement in different areas, and they receive encouragement in different ways. Some people hate the spotlight, and would rather not be recognized at all than to be called on the stage and be given a plaque. Others will be annoyed if you didn’t take time to understand WHY their breakthrough formula worked on that spreadsheet. Be sure you’re providing encouragement in a way that will be most impactful to your employees. Recognition can backfire when people don’t feel “got.”  To make recognition more meaningful: customize it, personalize it, make it timely, encourage strengths, align it, and involve the team (for more detail and specific ideas see Winning Well chapter 20).

4 Ways to Provide Meaningful Encouragement

My guess is that right about now, you could use some encouragement. Not meaningless cheerleading, but some well considered, well-timed, well-meaning “You’ve got this and here’s how I know…”

In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the next five people you encounter could use some meaningful encouragement too. No matter how confident people appear on the outside, chances are they could use some encouragement to bolster their insides.

The Powerful Encouragement of a “Stranger”

Shep Hyken, bestselling author, keynote speaker, and past president of the National Speakers Association (NSA), was a stranger the day he offered me some best-in-class encouragement as I stepped off the stage at the International Customer Service Association conference. Now he’s a friend.

Sure I had done a lot of speaking before, but only to internal Verizon crowds or to my outsourced call centers where I was “the client.” This was different–no built in credibility. I wondered how my message would play outside the safety of my familiar world.

Shep smiled:

“Great job. When are you leaving Verizon to do this full time?”

“OMG Did I say that from the stage,” I cringed, worried I might have inadvertently let out the secret I had yet to admit to myself.

“No. But it’s obvious this is what’s next for you. Let me know how I can help. You should join the NSA. Call me when you’re ready to go and I’ll help.”

I did and he did.

“What advice do you have for how I can improve my speech?” I asked… and braced myself for the long list.

“Next time I’ll listen with that in mind. But for now, just never end with questions. Close powerfully and exit. If the client wants questions, exit and then come back.”

Powerful, simple advice. Thank goodness he refrained from the list of 37 things I now know I could have done better in that speech.

4 Ways to Provide Meaningful Encouragement

  1. Meet them where they’re vulnerable. Timing matters. Shep grabbed me right after I stepped off the stage when I most needed a thumbs up. Great encouragement is a metaphorical hug.
  2. Help them envision a future self. Sometimes we can see more in people than they ever thought possible. Great encouragement is about possibility and potential.
  3. Offer support. Great encouragement comes with investment. “I believe in you so much, I’m willing to help.”
  4. Coach with care. Yes, offer feedback but don’t overwhelm. Great encouragement breaks down what’s next into attainable steps.

Winning Well leaders seek out opportunities to encourage.

Who in your life could use some encouraging support?

Winning Well in the News

In addition to our Winning Well speaking tour, David and I are having a blast talking with the media. Here are a few of our latest gigs.

school for startupsI was delighted to talk Winning Well on  School For Start Ups Radio.

And David had a blast in his interview with The Experience Pros.the experience pros

And for my call Center Peeps, see my ICMI video interview How to Be a Better Contact Center Manager. If  you’re considering heading to the ICMI conference in Long Beach you can use my code WinWell to receive $200 off the conference registration.

 

Cheer in the Next Gear: How to Make Your Support Count

Each time a cyclist peddled past our corner at the Ironman triathlon , the woman sitting next to me on the curb would clang her large cowbell. No words. No sign of emotion. This went on for hours. It was almost a Pavlovian response. See bike, ring bell. She was committed. She never missed an athlete. For whom was her bell tolling? Why was this helpful?

In contrast, my husband Marcus is my cheering hero. I have run several marathons by his side, and watched him as he cheers from the inside of the race; looking to encourage anyone running behind, ahead or beside him. His cheers go something like this:

“Hey cheese head!” (quick caveat here, this greeting works best when the guy you are approaching is wearing a large styrofoam 3 cornered cheese hat). How’s it going? I’ve been watching you run and you really seem like you’re feeling strong. Have you run marathons before? What time are you going for? Oh yeah, you’re right on pace. YOU’VE GOT THIS!

He cheers the same way off the asphalt.

As leaders, how we cheer for our teams matters. When cheering is too general or lacks sincerity it can do more harm than good. It’s discounted at best, and can diminish a leader’s credibility.

How to CHEER with Impact

Whether your are cheering with a microphone in a large team context, or are encouraging someone by their side, there are specific ways to ensure your cheering is helpful.

Confidence

Communicate your sincere confidence in the person or team’s ability to achieve the desired goal

Honor

Share why you know they can win. Honor specific accomplishments or characteristics that communicate your confidence and build theirs

Energy

Tap into what is energizing them about this goal, breathe your energy into that place

Emotion

Draw on your own experiences to create an emotional connection

Rejoicing

Celebrate what they’ve accomplished so far and rejoice in their wins