The letter “E” in our acronym R.E.S.P.E.C.T. stands for encouragement. As the CEO of your business, offering encouragement to your team is one of your most important jobs. I like to say, CEO stands for Chief
No matter what business you are in there will be times when it may seem easier to quit than to go on. Sleep deprivation, extreme circumstances, unrealistic demands, and a lack of positive communication can all lead to loss of morale and a feeling of despair.
I recall a story I heard once by Canadian mountaineer and adventurer, Jamie Clarke. His group was beginning their descent from Mt. Everest through some of the most extreme cold and blizzard conditions to be found anywhere in the world. They were trudging through knee-deep drifts, breathing air so thin that you needed to stop to catch your breath after each step. One of Jamie’s colleagues began lagging behind the group and eventually stopped moving all together. By the time the team noticed they were quite a ways ahead.
The team watched as their fellow climber stood motionless for twenty minutes, slowly freezing to death. A rescue team assembled and began the arduous, almost impossible journey back to where the climber was frozen to the ground. They were afraid that they wouldn’t make it up in time to save his life but they set out anyway.
The climber had now been standing motionless for almost 30 minutes. In a semi-conscious state of delirium he dialled home on his satellite phone to say a last good-bye to his family.
His 7 year old daughter picked up the phone, the call was recorded and went something like this:
“Hun,……….get……….Mom……….I…………I can’t…..go on……” he panted, struggling for enough breath to utter each word.
His daughter, completely unaware of his predicament cheerfully replied, “Dad, is that you? It’s almost my birthday and remember, you promised me that you would be home for my birthday! Are you going to be home soon?… Dad… you promised…
The call disconnected.
The rescue team, looking up at the frozen climber, noticed a slight movement, and then a step – then another step. The climber was moving again, closing the gap between himself and the rescue team.
The climber lived to celebrate his daughter’s birthday from his hospital room as he was recovering from exposure, hypothermia and severe frost bite.
He now shares his story to illustrate the power of encouragement and how a few words from his daughter was enough to give him the motivation to carry on. Her words saved his life!
What situations in your business have you or a team member frozen to the ground, unable to go forward or back? What can you do or say as a leader to help encourage the next step?
1. Be your team’s biggest fan. Regularly and genuinely celebrate their efforts and accomplishments. Always share positive feedback from customers immediately with everyone. If you haven’t received good feedback in a while, ask for some. Customers are busy and may not realize just how much a kind word or two means to the team. A word of thanks is almost as rejuvenating as a rest.
2. Rest. It’s amazing how one’s outlook can improve after a rest. It can be hard to pull away from your job for a holiday even just one day off, but its value cannot be overstated. Also keep in mind that something as small as bringing a coffee to a team member can provide just enough of a break to re-energize them.
3. Listen with empathy. Sometimes all we need is to have someone hear what we have to say. We don’t necessarily need them to agree, in fact much of the time we hope they won’t. Think about it – you are the coach. If your team member comes to you looking for encouragement and instead you give sympathy he is likely to fall deeper into despair. You don’t have to provide an answer or a silver lining. Sometimes saying something like: “I don’t even know what to say right now, but I am sure glad you told me how you feel” is enough to make the other party feel heard and respected, opening up their mind to possible solutions.
4. Ask open-ended questions that may help team members find solutions. What do you believe is the cause of this situation? Is it within our control? If not, what can we do as a team to cope better? If it is, what do you think we could do in the future to avoid a similar circumstance? There is a solution to every problem, all you need to do is find it.
5. Get in the trenches with your team. You have a
business to run so you can’t be involved in operations all of the
time but when all hands are required on deck you need to lead the
way! Your team will receive tons of encouragement from seeing you lead by example.
6. Have a clear and compelling vision and share it often with the
team. We all need to have something we are working towards and we need to feel like we are doing something meaningful. What is your
greater purpose? Does it inspire your team?
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