The Encouragement Inventory

Encouragement is the support and confidence that is needed when we are working at something new or difficult.  Even when it is not new or difficult, doing the same thing again and again becomes difficult or tiresome for us, and it is the new encouragement we get which keeps us going.

For any organization to evolve, people need to be encouraged to do what is correct for the desired change.  In trying to make scalable models, we ensure the encouragement is systemic, usually in the form of rewards of increments and promotions.  Fairness is attempted to be ensured through goal setting that is equitable, and measurements of results which are published.

Appreciating that monetary, tangible returns are not the primary drivers for sustained change, we know that people need encouragement which is more understandable by being closely connected to things they do and achieve.  Our basic instincts tell us that we should do more of what we are encouraged for.

Encouragement comes from all quarters – superiors, colleagues, subordinates, and customers.  Of these, we give the most importance to the encouragement we get from our superiors, our role models, our leaders.  It is therefore important for the leaders to know what is correct (needed for moving in the right direction), believe that it is right, and encourage that which leads the organization in the right direction.  This is one of their most important responsibilities, though little understood or practiced.  Encouragement is most simply provided by making it possible for people to do what they are good at, or can become better at, and acknowledging gratefully what they accomplish.

The book, Execution (p.24) says – “Lots of business leaders like to think that the top dog is exempt from the details of actually running things.  It’s a pleasant way to view leadership: you stand on the mountaintop, thinking strategically and attempting to inspire your people with visions, while managers do the runt work.  This idea creates a lot of aspirations for leadership, naturally.  Who wouldn’t want to have all the fun and glory while keeping their hands clean?…”

So it is that the leaders now, who once were engaged with operations with their own behavior directly impacting day to day work, disengage and “rise above” the “drudgery” of “work” and no longer encourage all the behaviors that are correct and necessary.  It is important to realize that lack of encouragement is very close to discouragement in the minds of people.  It is also important to remember that the strongest encouragement is to lead by example, by demonstrating the doing of what is correct, which leads to happiness.

Some tenets of Encouragement:

  • Know what is correct, what is incorrect, what does not matter – Critical Thinking
  • Ensure your beliefs – of what is right, what is wrong, and what does not matter to you – are mapped to what is correct and incorrect
  • Encourage what is correct as right, at the same time DO NOT Discourage what is not wrong.  This is imperative if we want our people to grow to the fullest of their potential

An Encouragement Inventory, taken by each ‘leader’ for themselves, can reveal the gaps and ensure they are plugged.

Taking an Encouragement Inventory

Each person does this for themselves.  They should work on a sheet of paper with a format similar to the following.  Both tables should be filled, one after the other, and then looked at together:

# My behaviors, which I consciously use to encourage others What does it encourage? What does it not encourage, or discourage?
# My behaviors, which I unconsciously use to encourage others What does it encourage? What does it not encourage, or discourage?

The filling of these formats should be first focused on the first and second columns, and once all/most behaviors have been captured, we should consider filling the third column.

Review your entries/responses for:

  • Am I encouraging things that are correct?
  • Am I discouraging things that are incorrect?
  • Am I encouraging only the things that are correct?
  • Am I discouraging only the things that are incorrect?
  • Am I encouraging all things that are correct?
  • Am I discouraging all things that are incorrect?

As you review, you should capture the gaps in your encouragement behaviors, and build your personal strategies to fill those gaps.

And you will have done a good job 🙂