Nancy Dering Mock
Chief Encouragement Officer
Updated: Sep 29, 2020
All people and groups inevitably experience times of discouragement and disappointment. When times are tough, changes are hard, and progress seems slow, effective leaders recognize the importance of their role in providing the support, energy, and confidence to persevere. This goes way beyond being a cheerleader.
1. Keep your Antennae Up This means being alert and sensitive to what the people around you are experiencing. It is a key aspect of Emotional Intelligence to be able to pick up on what others are feeling. Do usually upbeat people seem deflated? Do usually positive people seem to complain more? Are the water-cooler conversations more negative than positive? Do you sense a malaise or resignation?
2. Talk to People Invite the usually upbeat and positive people to discuss their perspective with you individually. What is going on? What is causing it? What do they recommend?
3. Acknowledge Some leaders have a tendency to ignore disappointment and group malaise. But, sweeping it under the carpet can only make things worse. Be realistic. Acknowledge in a full group meeting like a staff meeting that you understand that the changes are hard, or that progress seems slow, or that the loss of a key client hit hard. Don't dwell on it, simply acknowledge it and re-direct the conversation to a discussion of the two or three best ideas for moving forward.
4. Provide Support It may be the case that individuals or teams don't have the resources, skills or tools necessary to move forward. Effective leaders ask their people what they need to be successful and then, seek to meet those needs. Nothing is as encouraging as a leader who is willing to listen and get people what they need.
5. Block and Tackle Equally important is what people could do without. Effective leaders ask their people what is getting in their way and then, work to eliminate or reduce these obstacles. This is a powerful message of support.
6. Infuse Energy Clearly, this is a key role of leaders: looking for opportunities to engage talent, to recognize progress, and to celebrate small wines. Savvy leaders understand that the tone of communications (memos, emails, meetings, etc.) needs to be re-energizing, not de-energizing, striking a positive, optimistic note.
7. Build Confidence One of the consequences of disappointment and discouragement to a person or a group is loss of confidence. And, when people's confidence is shaken, it makes it harder to stimulate solutions, innovations and possibilities. The Chief Encouragement Officer understands this and conveys confidence in explicit and implicit ways: challenging people to go beyond the status quo, delegating broader responsibility, and publicly stating faith in their ability to get it done. This use of self-fulfilling prophecy is a powerful tool in restoring confidence.
When times are tough and people are discouraged, it doesn't work to ignore it, sugar-coat it, or hope it will go away. Effective leaders recognize the importance of their role in listening, providing support, infusing energy, and building confidence to persevere.
Have you experienced times when the energy or enthusiasm of your team was low? What was happening?
Have you experienced leaders who are not tuned in to the mood of their team or who ignore the signs of disillusionment? What were the outcomes?
Discuss energizers and de-energizers and the role a leader plays in increasing the former and decreasing the latter.
What are the implications for leaders? For you?