There is much focus placed on the idea of leaders enabling their teams, providing individuals with permission and the means to do something. But there is something even more essential and with a greater power to transform. This something is encouragement, providing support, confidence, and hope. As a leader, you need to become the Chief Encouragement Leader.
Courage is, was, and always will be the antidote to fear.
- The Courage to Begin: It can be frightening to start. The starting line is a commitment to begin, and one that comes with no guarantee of success. For some, both the commitment and the lack of guaranteed success is enough to prevent them from beginning. The beginning is always difficult for those who lack experience, and the cold and cruel reality is that one can only get experience by starting. If you want to enable someone, encourage them to begin.
- The Courage to Fail: The idea that one should encourage another to begin often causes the person needing encouragement to hesitate, to put off a decision, and to avoid acting. Largely, committing to start is always accompanied by the fear of failure. There is not a line from incompetence to mastery that doesn’t run straight through numerous failures, shortcomings, mistakes, and missteps. As much as you may want to encourage people to succeed, you need to promote failure, making it an acceptable outcome. One of the easiest ways to avoid failure is to avoid trying, the bad math that suggests that if you never try, you never fail. To never try is to accept defeat before you’ve given yourself a fair chance to succeed.
- The Courage to Try Again: The word encourage is to light what discourage is to darkness. When one tries and fails, their interpretation of a single event as something that should discourage them. A failure is an event, not an identity, and encouragement is the remedy to discouragement. The encouragement necessary as one begins and fails is the courage to try again, and again, and again. No one masters anything on their first or thirty-first attempt, nor should they be expected to. When one struggles, they need to be encouraged to try again, and to keep at it until they succeed.
- The Courage to Change Approach: When one commits to a course of action, that commitment can extend to beliefs and actions that prove not to be effective. It can be difficult for people to believe that their theory is incorrect or that they need to change their actions. If there is anything more difficult than contradicting oneself, I am unaware of what it might be. You empower when you encourage people to let go of their commitment to their beliefs, their strategies, and their tactics and try a new approach, maybe one they may have already rejected. Like failure, there is no stigma for being wrong. There is, however, a benefit that accrues to those who change their approach and persist.
- The Courage to Live on the Plateau: When you begin a new endeavor of any kind, you are almost always greeted with early success. Your burgeoning competency adds fuel to your motivation, driving you to work longer and harder, with results that are both fast and noticeable—until you reach the plateau. Once on the plateau, your progress stalls, and it feels like you are regressing instead of progressing. Most people, most of the time, quit when they stop improving, not realizing that the plateau is what allows one to consolidate their gains and that their next breakthrough isn’t as far away as they might believe. The path of the master doesn’t often begin with natural talent but is instead marked with their willingness to give themselves over to practicing their craft after everyone else gives up.
- The Courage to Accept Their Success: There is nothing wrong with being humble. But there is something wrong with being unwilling to accept your success. Accepting your success provides the confidence to set new—and much larger—goals without fear. While anyone successful will tell you luck played a role, attributing all of it to good fortune is to discount your effort, your persistence, and your courage. You help early success become more and greater success when you encourage those who have succeeded in recognizing their accomplishments.
If you are a leader, you need to think of your role as including the idea that you are the Chief Encouragement Officer. Your primary duty as this version of CEO is to instill in your people the courage they need to begin, to fail, to persist, to change, and to grow. The transformation you need is only going to be enabled by your ability to encourage your ability to help the individuals on your team to transform.
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Filed under: Leadership