I’ve been thinking about how leaders worth following are verbally generous with speaking words of encouragement. The department of Homeland security has designed a sticky campaign designed to heighten public awareness to suspicious activity:
If you see something, say something.
What if we applied this insight to those around us when we see attitudes and actions that reflect the values we want to see lived out?
Xenophon (438-354 B.C.) was a historian who joined the Greek army after studying under Socrates. After his commander was killed in the Battle of Cunaxa, Xenophon, who had no prior command or soldier experience, was selected for the challenging task of leading the way through hostile enemy territory. When Xenophon noticed the blanket of dread covering the troops, he chose to say something to the leaders under his charge:
Well then! When you have appointed all the commanders necessary, it would only be opportune, I take it, if you were to summon the rest of the soldiers and speak some words of encouragement….The thing is to get them to turn their thoughts to what they mean to do, instead of what they are likely to suffer. (Source)
Liberating leaders are verbally generous. They take time to notice the unique contributions of those around them, and make specific deposits into their lives. This kind of investment will bring the return of morale and motivation.
Two things that can help you speak words of encouragement:
- Be specific: What unique contributions or qualities do you notice in that person?
- Be memorable: Think about how the person would like to receive the feedback. Would a card help them mark the moment, or would a visit to their workspace for a two-minute meeting leave a bigger imprint?
Spend some time reflecting on how each person around you is wired up to receive this kind of encouragement. Make a point to say something to everyone in your family and on your team this week.