Encouragement Sign

Many aspects of leadership are written about, or taught about, from a very high-level perspective.  Things like vision-casting, communicating, coaching, equipping, encouraging, and managing can sometimes be hard to put into practice regularly.  This series of posts contains practical ideas you can implement to become a better leader.

Encouragement is another key component of leadership.  John Maxwell once said “Remember, man does not live on bread alone:  sometimes he needs a little buttering up.”  It’s a funny spin off of a Biblical quote but it definitely rings true.  I think everyone would agree that some people need more encouragement than others, and some encourage more than others.  I’ve found that the 2 go hand-in-hand, as those who need encouragement more tend to encourage more.  I’m quite the opposite, not needing much encouragement but also failing to give it if I’m not careful.  It’s easy to think that because I don’t need encouragement then nobody else does either.  Here are some ideas of things you can do to encourage your teams regularly:

  • Calendar it – It almost sounds insensitive to “plan” encouragement but the truth is you want to have a system of encouragement.  It’s not like a marriage, where you have plenty of opportunities to show encouragement (but probably still don’t do it enough).  With teams you may only see them once a week, or once a month, and time, budget and other factors probably wouldn’t allow you to encourage them all at once anyway.  One idea is to plan different times to encourage your different teams every year.  You can think about how to encourage them once it’s on the calendar.
  • Write notes – I’ve really slacked off at this lately but writing (not typing or emailing) notes to your team members is a great way to encourage them.  I learned this from Jeff Henderson and have seen the fruits of it.  The key is to write notes that encourage and thank people for specific things they have done.  I used to just think through my day on Sunday and remember the specific things people did, and write them a note about it.  Make sure they’re genuine and put it on your calendar each week to do.
  • Gifts – Give them gifts.  Some people love to receive gifts more than notes or anything else.  A great idea is to add to your calendar dates when you will give gifts to each of your teams.  It may seem like a waste to spend ministry dollars on rewarding your teams, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Invest in people before you invest in programs.
  • Just say it!  – This is one I struggle with.  If you’re like me you often think about the specific things that people do you would like to encourage them about.  But, you may not say it because it’s awkward or you’re too busy.  Say it anyway.  As long as it’s genuine (and not creepy) it’s worth saying.

The last 3 were examples of specific things you can do but the most important one might be calendaring it.  That’s just another way of creating a system of encouragement.  If encouragement is extremely natural to you, you may find this post completely irrelevant, and you might be offended that somebody would even need a system.  But, I’m sure there’s something that’s natural to others that you need a system for as well (maybe, organizing?)  It’s easy to think other people are messed up when our strength is their weakness, especially when that strength/weakness is a Biblical virtue of some sort.  Regardless of whether you’re gifted at it or not, encouragement is important.  Make sure it’s part of your practical leadership.

This article was originally published at nickblevins.com on January 29, 2009.  Nick Blevins is a gifted writer, leader and encourager.  He serves as the Children and Student’s Team Leader at Community Christian Church in Baltimore, MD.