People who are encouraging tend to inspire others to believe in the importance of their work.
When aligning a team, an aloof or matter-of-fact approach can be the opposite of what you need.
I was part of a student activities group in college led by a staff person named Ben. Ben would never begin conversations with anything like, “How’s it going?” and never ended them with, “Sounds great – keep at it – have a good one.”
He would start with something like, “Here is the contact information for the comedian.” A parting comment might be something like… Actually, there was never a parting comment. As soon as the business was over, he would turn and walk away.
Ben was efficient, but put all of us on edge with his matter-of-fact nature. No matter what happened, he was calm and logical. This was great when we were in the Execution phase – Ben was amazing with details and crisis management – but teams in the Alignment phase need encouragement.
We need to see emotion and encouragement from our leaders so we know that the work we’re about to undertake is important. How was this cultivated by the SBS team?
Alex Della Rocca is a leader, a VP, on the M Booth corporate team who demonstrates the value of being encouraging. I spoke with Senior Account Executive Alison Hoachlander about this.
As a part of their work, there was a research report that many people inside and outside M Booth and American Express reviewed, and it was Alison that uncovered the biggest mistake.
An email went out to the whole team from Alex, saying in part, “Kudos to Alison for uncovering a major inaccuracy in the report… This error got past everyone else working on this project — but not Alison. We were able to find a solution and revise with ample time, saving us from a major headache later. Thanks, Alison.”
Interesting note: Alex’s DiSC style is iS – making it natural for him to prioritize collaboration and enthusiasm. Alison is a C, making it natural for her to prioritize accuracy, and not really think much about praise as an important part of things.
I asked Alison if this public praise made her uncomfortable. She says, “It’s a little awkward. But I understand it. It’s a DiSC myth that I don’t understand the value of praise because I’m a C. I do understand it, I just don’t feel like I need it. But something I’ve learned from Alex is that it works, and now I’m more likely to deliver it, even though it doesn’t come naturally.”
You see this ripple effect? Even people who hadn’t considered kudos to be important are influenced by a leader who encourages.
Alison goes on to say, “Alex always gives us the feel-good reasons why we’re doing our work. Whenever tasks get monotonous, and we have to get our hands dirty, he taps into the emotional side. We dig in because we understand why our work matters.”
She also gave this example of Alex being encouraging while working on SBS, “We often help to host webinars with business organizations across the country to prepare them for Small Business Saturday. Organizing and tuning into these webinars (which can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour) requires a lot of time and energy, but when Alex and I worked on them together, he helped to reinforce the important role that they play in helping small businesses get the most out of Small Business Saturday. As he noted, aiding these businesses is what the entire campaign is about, and having the opportunity to interact with business owners directly through the webinars really helps to drive home the goal of the program.”
Effective leaders are encouraging; not only do they inspire others to believe in the importance of their work, they become role models of that power and create a ripple effect.
Inspiration, along with Clarity and Dialogue, are essential during the Alignment part of the Work of Leaders process. Vision came first, and we’ve spent the last six posts looking at Alignment.
Execution is next – getting it all done.
Next week – the value of being Driven.
Being encouraging is a leadership behavior that helps drive Inspiration during the Alignment process of the Work of Leaders.
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This is the twelfth post in an 18-part series. Throughout the series, I’ll be providing real-world negative examples from a variety of settings.
For positive examples, we’ll look at one specific case study: the Small Business Saturday initiative from American Express. Small Business Saturday has become part of the holiday shopping lexicon (positioned between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and reminds us to “Shop Small” and keep our dollars local. It’s been tremendously successful and is a huge initiative, but there’s a behind-the-scenes story that lifts up best practices in leadership we can all adopt; not every leader or team member involved is a high-level executive at American Express. In fact, much of the effort was a product of the work of a specific team at M Booth, a mid-sized award winning PR firm. Follow along to learn more. To start at the first post in this series, click here.