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How to Put Courage Back in Encouragement for You and Your Team

Officevibe reports that 83 percent of employees appreciate both critical and reinforcing feedback, yet most employees go weeks without receiving it. If a leader’s job number one is to motivate and inspire others to perform, why is encouragement not more prominent in the workplace? Here are a few thoughts:

Our default is rugged individualism.

It’s in our DNA as Americans, after all. It’s natural to begin our day with our own worldview and all that it entails. We start by kicking our own tires first. When I wake, how do I feel when my feet hit the floor? What’s on my agenda for today? What would I like to accomplish? What are my hopes and dreams?

We’re bombarded by input.

It used to be that we would process a limited amount of local media. Now we have a plethora of global outlets, podcasts, newscasts, and social media platforms that ping us with updates, offering to ticker tape our day with constant interruptions. This stream of updates is compounded by our ability to communicate via computer, phone, and watch with our networks, clients, and colleagues.

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Negative self-talk can be a nag.

We tend to get discouraged when we don’t often get encouraged. Without courage, it’s common for people to feel as if they’re a balloon with a small leak, waiting for someone to put a finger on it. It requires a conscious and thoughtful effort to tap into our intrinsic motivation to perform and verbalize those thoughts for the benefit of our team.

If you relate to any of these challenges, I offer a hearty dose of forgiveness and, fittingly, a few words of encouragement.

You have the power to positively influence others and be a source of encouragement by preempting your disruptions and self-talk at the beginning of the day. A practice that helps me “think outside of myself” is to create a list of friends and colleagues who need my support. I’ve kept a running list for the last ten years, and I like to reach out and send people notes of encouragement on a regular basis to let them know I’m thinking about them and the challenges they’re facing. Putting my thoughts into an email or note gives my recipient a tangible token of support, which people often find more memorable and sustaining.

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Author Ian Maclaren* said, “Let us be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.” It’s a quote my daughter has given to me on a plaque that sits in my office and reminds me that people appreciate knowing that you’re thinking of them. A kind written word eases anxiety and bears witness to another’s truth. When we share another’s truth, the burden becomes lighter. As humans, we’re wired for connection; we’re at our best when we receive support and provide it.

Despite the great need for reinforcing feedback, many employees experience long droughts of any meaningful input. It’s common to let daily distractions get in the way of tending to your team’s need for encouragement, yet even the most resilient employees need external support. When people are plagued by negative thoughts or challenges in their lives, share your empathy and humanity. Let your positive influence and written words instill faith in their ability to overcome and achieve.

This is the third installment in a three-part series on the power of influence through the written word. In this series, I highlight three practices that have become an important part of my daily routine. Read the first and second.

*Note: Ian Maclaren was a pen name for Scottish Rev. John Watson. The earliest known version of his quote was “Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle.” During Watson’s life, pitiful meant “merciful” or “compassionate.”


  1. Walt Rakowich

    Thanks, Jeff. Love that you’re reading, and that you’re responding with such *encouragement* – hope you can pass that on to others, too!

    Reply to Walt Rakowich

  2. Walt Rakowich

    Tom, thank you. It means a lot to read this. Hope you’ll share it with others!

    Reply to Walt Rakowich

  3. Jeff Bouldin

    Amen Tom, very meaningful posts Walt. Yes, keep it going!

    Reply to Jeff Bouldin

  4. Tom Mercer

    Walt, I am continuously amazed at how great your posts are. Keep it up!

    Reply to Tom Mercer

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