Encouragement or Praise

If you want people to continue to do what they are doing, praise them. Better yet, praise them loudly in front of their peers. If you want someone to do something better or differently, most of the time we try to clarify expectations, give them constructive feedback, or outright criticize them. 38884268_sThere is another component though… encouragement, a greatly underutilized tool in most leaders’ and communicators’ tool belts.

Sometimes the best idea is to combine these choices such as clarification, feedback, and encouragement. But most often, I’ve observed that encouragement is the forgotten piece. Creating clarity and real encouragement is the secret sauce to obtaining behavior change because it’s one thing to know what to do but a whole other thing to be motivated to do it and/or to feel hopeful about success in the endeavor.

My husband, Tom, is a 5th grade school teacher. He often has a child in his class who is not living up to their potential, has an attitude problem, or is outright naughty. He has no choice but to address the behavior. However he does have a choice in the way he communicates it. In the heat of his frustration (remember he has 34 of these little boogers to deal with at the same time!), his knee-jerk reaction is to take them outside, scold them for the bad behavior, and issue a warning or a consequence. They get the message loud and clear but without some encouragement from him, the child will likely feel disliked or devalued by Tom. However, when he couples the clarification of what is expected and the straight-talk about what must change with the fact that he knows they can do better and that he believes in their potential and sees what they are capable of… the result is different. He now has a student who is more clear about the rules but also believes their teacher has confidence and faith in them as well as hope for a better future. He has, in essence, communicated that they are worthwhile and full of potential and that a behavior change along with a better outcome is fully anticipated.

Most people love praise. But everyone needs encouragement. This week, look for ways to encourage your co-workers, clients, friends, and family. Show them that you see their potential and have faith in the future.


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How do you know if a man or a woman needs encouragement? If they’re breathing.”
~ Truett Cathy

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