“Leaders who don’t encourage will eventually be surrounded by a discouraged team.”
In 1832, Abraham Lincoln lost his job and was defeated in a bid for the state legislature. That defeat set off a string of failures and heartbreak for the future-president. His business failed, leaving him in debt for the next 17 years; his fiance died unexpectedly; he had a nervous breakdown causing him to be homebound for two years; he lost seven elections.
While we will never know what was going on in the heart of Lincoln during those setbacks, he never gave up and got discouraged. Not only did his tenacity and courage payoff, but the skills and toughness he acquired helped him lead during turbulent times. Today he is widely considered to be one of the greatest presidents of the history of the United States because of his fantastic accomplishments.
Tough times don’t last, tough people do.
Lincoln is proof of the truth behind Robert Schuller words.
Why getting discouraged will destroy you
If there is a time you’re going to get discouraged, it’s now. A seemingly endless period of uncertainty, fear, and doubt clutters your mind daily. Instead of getting up early to read, workout, or beat the traffic, you are faced with the all-important decision about whether you should shower or not before you start remote work.
Regardless of your particular situation, no one is exempt from getting discouraged. The word “courage” comes from the Latin root “cor,” which means “heart.” So literally, the word discouraged means, “disheartened.” While no one would blame you for having a broken heart about the current situation, it’s losing your heart that we can’t allow to happen.
A broken heart is okay, losing your heart isn’t.
While it’s possible for one superhuman professional to single handily find ways not to get discouraged, that’s the exception, not the rule. We need leaders to encourage us and keep us moving forward. If you find yourself in a position where you need to do this for others, here are some strategies:
1. Start with empathy about their situation
One of my mentors told me early in my career, “Everybody is going through something whether you know it or not.” Start from a place of empathy.
Remote workers are juggling working from home and teaching their kids at the same time. For the first week, my kids were out of school, I didn’t believe it was a tough job. In the last two weeks, I’ve experienced the challenges of teaching my son, I have great empathy for any working parent who is in the same boat.
Even if you haven’t been in an employees exact position, you can still empathize. When you do this, they will be more open to the strategies and the words you decide to use.
2. Focus on your environment to maintain hope
One of the exceptional leaders I wrote about in Building the Best, Bob Caslen, provided fantastic insight in an email interview this week. He said:
“One of the most important things leaders must do in crisis and adversity is to maintain hope. If hope becomes forlorn, then morale quickly plummets. In order to maintain hope, the leader must know the environment; where the challenges are and where the opportunities are. He or she must have the agility and adaptiveness to find the opportunities and to develop and pursue them. It is in this environment, that hope is maintained, and where hope can grow. And when hope is strong, people do not get discouraged.”
Take Caslen’s words to heart and focus your efforts on understanding your team’s environment. Explore strategies and solutions to that will allow your team to quickly adapt and pivot to provide hope to your people.
3. Use specific words and phrases
Words are powerful things. To keep your team from becoming discouraged, you must use strong and powerful language. In the latest episode of the Follow My Lead podcast, Mike Robbins, author of the new book We’re All in This Together, shared a powerful lesson all leaders need to add to their arsenal: “Even though it doesn’t seem like it, you have more than this moment requires.”
I don’t know a better, more powerful phrase for you to use with your team on a regular basis more than this, “You have more than this moment requires.” Here are a few more of my favorites:
“You were born for this.”
“If it were easy, everyone would do it.”
“You haven’t given up yet for a reason.”
“You are a blessing.”
Or this one from Rachel Hollis:
If you’re uncertain about your ability to lead your team away from discouragement, remember Abraham Lincoln. He continued on for years, with no proof or evidence, seemingly alone. The difference is your team doesn’t have to do it alone. You can lead them. Take this responsibility seriously by having empathy, maintaining hope, and using specific words to encourage them. Remember leaders who don’t encourage will eventually be surrounded by a discouraged team.
You have more than this moment requires!
Whom are you going to encourage today? How are you going to encourage your team this week?
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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making victual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.