Words are powerful. Ask anyone in my office. AdWords, keywords, buzzwords. Powerful. The Jelly Team works hard to spread the word –knowing the value of a good word and the oh-so-compelling word of mouth.
Words of encouragement carry this same power. Quite literally, to encourage someone is to build him up; to make her stronger; to instill courage.
I recently read Ross McCammon’s article in Entrepreneur that sparked thought on this topic. As the ‘People Person’ at Jelly Marketing (a.k.a., Director of Operations & Personnel) I am passionate about cultivating and nurturing a culture that brings out the best in people. And so, I have a very special interest in words and their power.
Everyone likes a gift
Courage is worth cultivating. It’s what separates action from apathy and innovation from the norm. When you inspire others with courage, good things happen. When people at work want to feel equipped and capable, encouraging words can help them reach their goals. And so, distributing courage in the workplace is a game changer.
What if you could wrap up courage and give it as a gift? You can. With your words. And, like any good gift, courage is best when it’s customized — tailored to the details, built for impact, and timely.
Bright, bold, and beautiful
People want to feel known, valued, and spurred on towards their potential. This is especially true in the workplace. Encouragement guides people towards success more effectively and efficiently by cutting back the clutter of doubt, discouragement, and fear. Encouragement isn’t about flimsy praise. It’s the real deal.
Encouragement is timely and specific. It’s insightful and clear. Vague and general platitudes have no power here. Let me explain. At Jelly, when creating visual content for our brand, we aim for images that are bright, bold, and beautiful. Similarly, encouragement is best when it meets the same criteria.
Bright: Insightful words have the power to cut through the noise. Choose your words carefully. Be specific.
Bold: Courage begets courage. Step out of your comfort zone for someone. Be clear. Speak the truth.
Beautiful: Beauty is relative, so know your audience. Speak to him or her in a way that resonates. Encouragement is best when it is relevant, meaningful, and personalized.
At Jelly, encouragement is a team-wide practice, and sometimes comes in the form of a plush orangutan named Pumpkin. At Staff Jam (our bi-weekly staff meeting), the previous recipient highlights a colleague of his or her choice, to bestow some courage. Dubbed the ‘Pumpkin Pass,’ this celebratory ritual provides a forum for encouragement in the form of stories, observations, kudos, and even an acrostic poem every now and then.
As a leader, it is imperative that I see people beyond their bottom-line contributions, that I see their potential. It is vital that I see not only what is but what is possible. There are times when encouragement is tough—moments when mediocrity feels good, safe. Courage disrupts. Courageous leadership is willing to get messy in order to bring out the best in people. As a leader I have a responsibility to my team to be an encourager, to be that person who says, “You’re better than this.”
McCammon agrees that inspiring others to greatness is not for the faint of heart. As an encourager “you’ve helped someone achieve a goal that he or she didn’t previously have. That’s not merely motivational—that’s magical. You’re a wizard, a coach, a seer and (if we’re being honest) kind of a pain, all at the same time.”
So, you want to be more encouraging now, right? But you don’t know exactly how to get started? It’s easy. Stay calm and gift on! Here’s what I’d suggest:
- Observe. Watch and listen to the people you work with. Notice who they are, how they engage their world, and what makes them unique. What do they do well? Where do they have room to grow? Take note of specific instances and patterns.
- Prepare. Choose your recipient, your words, and your timing. Your goal is to build this person up and inspire them towards their potential. Come back to the 3 Bs (above) and ensure that what you want to say meets the criteria.
- Encourage. Let your words inspire others and watch good things happen.
As you do this, you will find yourself seeing potential in your team and colleagues more readily. Your leadership will instill courage in others and your office will bring out the best in people. This simple practice of encouragement can be a powerful catalyst for good in your organization.