Sunday, October 18, 2009

Leadership Tip: Build a Culture of Encouragement

I spent some time this weekend thinking about how to build a culture of encouragement in my workplace and family. When your tendencies are to manage toward a performance based culture, encouragement can often take a backseat.

However, I'm also convinced that a culture of encouragement and a culture of performance is neither mutually exclusive nor incompatible. In fact, mature Christian leadership involves the cultivation of both performance and encouragement. Building a culture of performance without encouragement dehumanizes the work experience - it denies our identities as image bearers of the Creator God. After all, we're not just machines measured simply by virtue of productivity. In fact, every worker uniquely bears the image of the Creator with special character, gifts and abilities.

So how do we build a culture of encouragement? A friend was helpful in formulating thoughts around this. He offered that a culture of encouragement is one where encouragement is:

- Personal
- Specific
- Genuine
- Regular

But I also believe that biblical encouragement has an additional component - it brings to bear the reality of God at work in our world. It affirms the fact that each person is uniquely gifted and bears the image of God. It reminds us that God is at work in our lives - in our circumstances, plans, hopes and dreams. For the Christian, it brings the comfort of knowing that Jesus Christ has addressed our greatest need and promises that He will neither leave us, nor forsake us. This is the kind of encouragement I hope to bring to my family and workplace.


jimmy said...

good post, i fully agree. i am not one with authority, but one under authority so, my perspective would be that the managers i have served that have been encouragers are a blessing to work for. i am not (and have not worked) working in a Christian environment so, the gospel does not play into my interaction with my managers however, by the grace of God, i have had managers that great encouragers and it make all the difference in the world. i can scan my workmates and see the effect of management.

i trust that your home and workplace will have the sweet aroma of the gospel and words that build up and encourage.
Godspeed in you efforts

Every Square Inch said...

jimmy - thanks for your comment and your observations. I think it's interesting to consider how we can all play a role in developing a culture of encouragement even when we're not in charge...or in an environment that is non-Christian

Halfmom said...

don't laugh, but I think brownies work pretty well for me. apparently my "thinking" face looks somewhere between angry and annoyed when it's only lost in thought, concentrating hard. so, in addition to encouraging words, I try to bring a pan of fresh brownies into the lab every-so-often just to show that I value the people with my time away from the lab.

what I'm wondering though is how (drum roll - our favorite subject about to come up) fear of man and/or pride can taint the attempt to be encouraging. I'm sure that leads to lost productivity and discouragement, I just can't get in my mind how it might look

now off to work:)

Marcus Goodyear said...

Personally, I think performance without encouragement isn't sustainable. But like you implied, the encouragement has to be much more than just a paycheck.

At a Laity Lodge retreat last weekend, psychologist Mark Schaeffer said transformational leadership is more than a simple exchange (transactional) because it communicates a substantive mission. Good leaders and teams bond around a mission, rather than making simple bargains of service/productivity for hire.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I agree. Often a great weakness at work and even among Christians. And perhaps among men. We need to affirm each other, and point out the good we see. Friends appreciate each other, and this should be a part of a work situation as well, I mean a sincere appreciation for what another human being is trying to do, and is doing well.

Every Square Inch said...

Susan - I never underestimate the power of home baked goods as a means of encouragement! I'd love to hear more about how you think fear of man may negatively impact any initiative to encourage.

Marcus - absolutely agree about transformational leadership and a sense of mission. I think "substantive mission" is just another way of making the point that we need purpose in our work. A culture of encouragement isn't just about being grateful for the contribution of also means imparting a sense of purpose for the work at hand

Ted - encouraging others by affirming their person and work is vitally important