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Motivating others: how to be an encouraging leader

flowers in a heart shape

In this blog Charlie Scott outlines why motivation is important, and how leaders can encourage others

Motivation is energy

People who are motivated perform their jobs more effectively. They are more creative, flexible, and healthy. They have the energy and commitment to do what is needed today and to welcome what might be needed tomorrow.

In our sector it isn’t enough that people are committed to the mission or your organisation’s beneficiaries. If people are to persist during times of challenge, change and uncertainty, they need to feel encouraged as individuals. Everyone wants to feel that they are making a difference and that what they do is recognised and appreciated.

Leadership and motivation

As motivation is so important, encouraging others is a key leadership skill. Leaders who praise achievements, small and large, and who recognise excellence will inspire people to excel. It shows that as a leader, you care about people as well as results. Encouraging starts with showing that you believe others have the capacity to excel, and then celebrating the progress that is being made. Progress is very motivating, so it is important to consistently and constantly celebrate progress, rather than waiting purely for a large goal to be achieved.

It’s not about you

Some leaders feel uncomfortable encouraging others as they don’t want to feel like a vacuous cheerleader. Which is why it is vital for recognition to be genuine and sincere. As leaders, we need to get over any personal discomfort and understand that recognition is for others, not for us. We can’t just give recognition to others in the way we would want to receive it. Instead, we need to be creative in how we celebrate progress and personalise the recognition to the people we work with.

What to celebrate

The number one challenge that leaders have with encouraging others is slowing down and taking the time to provide recognition. In a fast-moving world, it can be easy to get caught up in delivery. Yet it is when things are most hectic and when workload is the heaviest that people need to hear they are appreciated for all their effort. By using positive encouragement, we can nurture a positive spirit in people, and when people feel good, they’re more productive and successful. For example, we can:

  • Recognise team members for going the extra mile: people who go above and beyond do so because they are passionate and committed; they will only continue if they believe that doing so is appreciated
  • Celebrate victories and progress: create a shared sense of accomplishment and help people understand their part in the team’s progress and achievements
  • Praise effort not just results: it can sometimes feel that is always another challenge to face or another obstacle to overcome. At times it can feel like a marathon we have not trained for. We can become exhausted, frustrated and disheartened. Thank people for their effort, help them see how far they got to already and boost their energy to keep going
  • Honour values-driven work: reinforce the values of your organisation by praising the way people approach their work in line with these values
  • Create a spirit of community by supporting our colleagues to recognise each other and to show appreciation to others

encourage letters

How to recognise others

Good leaders push themselves out of their comfort zones and encourage their staff in the way that their staff want to be encouraged. For example, some people feel encouraged by:

  • sincere verbal praise that provides specific feedback about what they have done and that it is appreciated
  • verbal praise in a team setting which showcases to others what is being done
  • an email that recognises their effort which they can keep and re-read in their own time
  • feedback from a more senior person which shows their work is visible within the organisation and which increases their profile. As leaders we need to ask senior managers to provide this recognition
  • positive feedback from a beneficiary group or from other team, outlining the impact of the work that has been done
  • a spotlight on the team’s work to the whole organisation
  • a hand written thank you card given in person, or mailed, showing preparation and thought
  • small gifts of homemade food or fruit baskets
  • meaningful and challenging work or projects which show how much they are trusted and that offer development of their skills and expertise
  • assigning people as the expert or go-to-person for an area of work or subject, that others can learn from

Take opportunities

When we are busy, it is easy to forget to encourage others. Effective leaders regularly reflect what recognition has been given, and what new approaches they can use to ensure that any methods of recognition don’t become overused and unoriginal. Not everyone will love every approach and that is ok, as long as we vary how people are recognised.

It is also important to spot and plan opportunities to thank others and show how much they are appreciated. When we spend time showing we believe in our team and to celebrate their achievements, this gives others the courage and inspiration to keep driving forward and to accomplish extraordinary things.

To learn more about how to encourage others take a look at our Transformational Leadership programme.

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Charlotte Scott

About Charlie Scott

Charlie specialises in leadership development, team facilitation and strategy development. Charlie worked for over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector. Before joining =mc ten years ago, she created and...