Encouragement – why and how you should give it.

There’s plenty of books, websites, and leadership resources that talk about the importance of encouragement. As Goethe said in 1768,

“Instruction does much, but encouragement everything.”

The following example comes from Phil Cooke who is a media producer, speaker and writer.

Some time ago, our team was called into a major, national media ministry because they were struggling with a declining response to their television program. For years, their financial support had dropped, and it had been nearly a decade since they’d been in the black. They had simply not adjusted to a changing culture, and needed a wakeup call on how the digital revolution had changed the world.

It took months of hard work and consulting with the ministry, but in less than a year – and after nearly a decade in the red – we helped them turn things around. Obviously it was a team effort between us and their in-house media, donor development, and leadership teams that ensured the ministry would continue to impact the world.

At a meeting shortly after, I made it a point to congratulate the ministry team, and tell them what a great job they had done. I followed up with personal emails to encourage them that they were now on the right track, and it had been a wonderful experience working with them.

Time went by and our Cooke Pictures team went on to other projects.

Then, unexpectedly at Christmas a couple of years later, I received a Christmas card with a note from a leader on their donor development team. Here’s an short excerpt from that note:

“I wanted to thank you in writing for an email you sent to me congratulating our team for helping turn the revenue from the ministry’s long downturn. You were the only person who acknowledged this accomplishment, of which you played a vital part. Our entire team was grateful for your kind words and observations. You added an exclamation on my many years of service! I will always be grateful that God allowed our paths to cross.”

Think about that. At a major, national media ministry, I was apparently “The only person who acknowledged this accomplishment.” It meant enough that years later, she sent me a note.


Leaders: When was the last time you congratulated your team? When was the last time you noticed great work? It’s not just an emotional touchy-feely thing. A study by Bersin revealed that companies that “excel at employee recognition” are 12 times more likely to enjoy strong business results.

It’s time to be grateful for the people around you at every level. Take some time today to “tour the factory floor” and tell people how much they are appreciated. Believe me, I don’t need research to tell me that it makes a difference.

Be Specific: A few years ago my good friend Dave Gilpin spoke about how praise is often blunt whilst criticism is sharp and more effective. His revelation was that criticism is sharp and effective because it is usually specific. When people want to criticise a pastor they say things like, “Your preaching isn’t deep enough.” Whilst when they feel encouraged and that a message has really helped them they might say, “Good message, Pastor.” Dave, encouraged his listeners to always try to be specific with praise so that it would be sharper and carry greater impact.

Leaders:  Think about how you can give some specific encouragement to your team this week. Don’t just thank them be specific. Use phrases like:

“I love it when…”
“You are so good at…”
“When you do….”

Hebrews 10:25 “…Encourage one another daily – and all the more as you see the day approaching.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”