Free, Simple, Effective, and Forgotten -- Motivation, Part 4

Yesterday I got a text from a good friend, trustworthy leader, and A+ communicator, John Ott. He wanted me to check out a website focused on leadership development. I did so and immediately started kicking myself. The website was It is hosted by Mark Miller, VP of Leadership Development at Chick-fil-A. Mark has been writing books and helping develop leaders both inside and outside of Chick-fil-A for many years. His website was clean in appearance and easy to navigate. It had a nice video promoting his most recent video offering. Overall it was extremely professional and full of good content.

So why was I kicking myself? Because when I see good stuff like that, I realize that I’m not where I want to be professionally. It hits me that I need to up my game. I kicked myself for not being further along in my development of books, products, and information services to help leaders lead well.

From Kicking to Sailing

I shared my self-kicking thoughts with John via text. I told him that looking at Mark’s site made me realize just how far I need to go in order to provide the value I want to in the marketplace.

John texted back, “Be encouraged: his [Mark Miller’s] first book was published 10 years ago. … You’re pushing a powerful flywheel. You’re winning and you’re going to win more.”

And just like that, my sails were full.

Yes, it feels good when someone puts wind in our sails. But, to quote the musical group Boston, “it’s more than a feeling.” When leaders genuinely encourage those who follow them, they not only make them feel good, they ignite energy within their followers. Encouragement from leaders gives followers the very fuel they need to accomplish their goals.

In last week’s post, we looked at how knowing our followers personally helps us tap into the unique motivations that live within each of them. But there are general motivational principles that apply to everyone we lead; the impact of encouragement is one of those principles.

Despite the fact that encouragement is free, simple, and effective, it is an often neglected leadership weapon. Many leaders grossly under calculate the impact of encouragement on their followers or simply forget about it altogether.

Words of encouragement are more powerful when they come from a leader. Had a non-leader delivered the message to me that John did, it would not have impacted me as much it did. It would’ve put only a small breeze into my sails. But because John is a leader whom I respect, his words filled me with energy and spurred on my resolve.

Natural (Positive) Consequences

Understanding, remembering, and leveraging how human nature responds to encouragement is important for leaders who wish to reach their potential. The metaphor of putting wind in your followers' sails is not merely a cute phrase; it is a great word picture for the force that encouragement is. Just like wind to a sailboat, encouragement provide energy our followers need to help them get where they need to go.

Whether you are a natural encourager or someone who has to leave sticky notes on your computer to remind you to encourage those around you, the story is the same: genuine encouragement is one of the least expensive, simplest, and most effective methods for accessing the motivation within those you lead.

Share Your Thoughts: Have you ever followed a particularly encouraging leader? What was the experience like? As a leader, how do you intentionally and regularly utilize the power of encouragement? We'd love to hear from you. Join the conversation by clicking here.

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