To encourage means to give support, confidence or hope to another person. These qualities help the other person to be more courageous and to keep going.
This morning I was walking through Melbourne Airport on my way to board a flight for New Zealand. The queues were pretty long going through the security screening. In front of me was a young family with a lot of gear. Dad was carrying a toddler and mum, walking with a walking stick, was struggling to get all their belongings onto the belt and remove various things from their bags.
A few people around were getting a little frustrated as it was taking them quite a long time to get organised. They were uncertain and just a little hamstrung as they struggled to comply.
The woman tending the belt was taking incredible care of them. She was calm, patient and very kind, and even though other people were frustrated and complaining as they often do at a busy security screening point, she never let up on doing whatever she could to help this young family stay calm and get through the screening process.
Once they headed through, I guided my things along the belt and came to a point where the attendant was standing right by me on the other side of the belt. I leaned over and said something like, "I saw the way you took really good care of those people. They were struggling a bit and you showed them a lot of kindness. You truly have a very beautiful heart." We both smiled and I kept moving.
As I was re-packing my laptop on the other side, she came scooting around and rushed up to me beaming and said, "You just made my day!" and shot back round to continue her work. I watched her for a moment as she engaged the travellers with a warm smile and a welcoming energy. It was really nice.
Now this is not about me doing something nice for someone else, it is though about the act of encouraging another human being, especially someone who is giving of themselves and doing great work.
I learned a long time ago about the incredible power in giving another person acknowledgement for their work and encouragement for their efforts. Too often we see people being told what they are not doing well at, or being criticized for their efforts. It is almost the model upon which our society is built. Can you imagine Police Officers pulling a motorist over to tell them how well they are driving and for the care they are taking on the road?
I know when I get criticized or get told my efforts are not good enough, it becomes a struggle for me to move on from it and get my attention back on where I need to be going. Sometimes, even when people are giving us feedback with the intention to help us, it raises old unconscious memories from school perhaps and brings about resistance and perhaps some resentment.
But when I make a mistake, I know I have made a mistake and I don't need someone to come and point it out. All too often, correction and criticism is being delivered to a person who has already realised what they have done and is already deciding to do better next time. Of course, this is not always the case.
Delivering correction can be a real minefield for the person doing the correcting as they can never be sure how it will be taken.
But encouraging someone can never turn out negative. It is a heart-warming experience for both parties. When we connect with someone else and genuinely acknowledge them for their efforts, they feel good about themselves. Our act helps lift their spirits and their natural inspiration to do even better kicks in.
When in the workplace, people are far less fatigued when they are feeling good about themselves and upbeat. The simple act of encouraging someone can be enough to remove their fatigue and give them an incredible burst of energy that can last for hours.
Now before you run off and start handing out false praise in an attempt to get more out of your workforce, and I know you would not do that, please realise that encouragement must be genuine and meaningful. You have to really feel that what you are saying is true. Then, the recipient will feel the genuineness of your message.
We can all do so many little things to make workplaces safer. A simple act of kindness in giving another person the encouragement they deserve can really move mountains.
Try it out for yourself.