I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. Looking for missed posts, click here: Mistake #1, Mistake #2
Mistake #3: The Absence of Affirmation
It’s no secret in corporate America that affirmation is the number one motivational factor for employees -- Employee incentives
In fact, I’m convinced many managers are aware of this, to a degree, but as Hans states, “[they] wildly underestimate” the power of affirmation. It seems like there’s a big disconnect between knowing affirmation is valuable, and applying it in the workplace (or home). Here are my suggestions as to why it doesn’t happen more often:
- It requires time and thoughtfulness. Meaningful affirmation (a pre-printed, “Great Job!” certificate doesn’t cut it) requires time, and some reflection. If you want to thank an employee for some contribution, you have to know how they contributed, or in what way their contribution was effective. It’s hard to wing-it when it comes to meaningful praise.
- Affirmation requires a level of engagement with your family, classmates or co-workers. You can’t give powerful affirmation as a leader, if you’re disconnected from your team.
- One size doesn’t fit all -- a leader has to understand the different levels of affirmation his team needs. [see below]
- Unfortunately, some leaders just don’t care. They are so focused on upward mobility, so focused on goals and achievement, or just oblivious to others around them, and they don’t care about rewarding others with uplifting words.
Finzel points out four different types of people, and suggests some ideas for how to recognize them. I think this list is pretty helpful:
Desperados: These people cannot get enough praise! They usually lack confidence, are a bit fragile and lap up affirmation. If you have a desperado, remember that they need to know when they are doing well...frequently.
Up-and-downers: This group of people can carry on for days, even weeks, without much praise. But something will happen that will trigger a downturn in their countenance. Maybe a change at the office, a problem at home or in the marriage, or the loss of a friendship or pet. A good leader will recognize when an Up-and-downer needs a lift, and will use those opportunities to pour it on.
Normal (Stable): Hans uses the word normal, I would use the word stable, to describe people from a pretty steady background, and who don’t have real high-highs, or real low-lows. These people are easy to overlook because they require such low maintenance. But don’t confuse calm with happy, or non-cranky with content. Look for opportunities to help your stable people be reaffirmed in their stability.
Autopilots: These are you home or office energizer bunnies. They seem to operate at a high level for a long time, and often require little attention. In fact, many of them are suspicious of praise, assuming you have a second agenda. Learn to praise these people as you walk or work along side them. Praise them with coffee cards (Because you KNOW they drink unhealthy amounts of caffeine!) or humor -- anything that shows kindness.
Kaleo Korner (From Justin VanRheenen, founder of Kaleo Media)
Affirmation is probably the hardest characteristic to get right all the time. Because of that, you’re going to mess up…a lot! Failure is going to happen. Don’t let it scare you. How do I know? I’m awful at giving affirmation. Which is very ironic since my #1 strength in Strength Finders is Significance. I literally want to know that I have done a good job and my longing for that, drives me to excel. But because I’m awful at giving affirmation, doesn’t mean I don’t do it.
Here are 3 things I remind myself about affirmation:
Making the company look good is a part of doing a good job. But to be honest, it shouldn’t be the point of the affirmation. So much work goes into making the company look good. How does my good work make you feel? What specifically about my good work makes you feel that way? (AAAAAHHHHHH FEEEEEELLLLINGS!!!!)
Most times, being late with affirmation is still better than none at all.
If you still can’t be sincere with affirmation, just keep your mouth shut until you can. If you can’t be sincere, you’ve got some soul searching to do because something is wrong with you.
That last one may seem harsh, but I can’t tell you how easy it is to loose credibility by being a person a who isn’t sincere. I’ve been that person. I’ve been managed by a person like that. I’ve watched people be managed by people like that. Trust me. Just don’t do it. Or do. And lose great employees or volunteers.
I think some leaders balk at the idea of having to know their staff well enough to know what each person needs. But this isn’t new advice! Look at what Paul wrote the leaders in a church. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul writes, “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone...”
If you are in a leadership position (Dads/moms, coaches, bosses, employees, parents, children, students, pastors, CEOs etc...) you have a unique opportunity to bless those you lead with honest, careful and powerful words of praise. You have a chance to put into practice the last half of Ephesians 4:29, “...[your words should be] what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
How are you doing as a leader, providing affirmation to your team? Do your children need to hear more praise from you? Are your employees desperate for some affirmation from their boss? How could you encourage one person today?
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
Special thanks to Justin VanRheenen, friend and founder of Kaleo Media. If you want to increase your online presence, or improve your social media content and skills, contact Justin and learn from him!