The Power of Encouragement

Recently I spent a short time in Oxford participating in an international Solutions Focused conference (more on that in a later newsletter). It was interesting to be in England at the time of the Paralympics. It seems that they were the most successful, most enthusiastically embraced and best attended of all the Paralympic Games ever held. One commentator told of this experience…

A journalist who had been cynical before the Games wrote about how it had taken him a while to realise why he was so emotionally caught up in the euphoria of the Games. He then acknowledged that he had never been in an arena where everyone was 100% encouraging. 80,000 people from many of the world’s nations encouraged every single athlete from every nation, whether they were first or in last place.

This story of encouragement reminds me about just how important it is for us as leaders and coaches to be encouragers of those with whom we work. Within the Solutions Focus approach the specific tool, known as 'Affirms', acknowledges the importance of noticing and highlighting any resources and strengths that could be leveraged to help achieve the desired outcomes. Sometimes people are not aware of these themselves until they are highlighted in this way.

When these 'Affirms' are delivered in a credible, authentic way they serve as great encouragers, opening people to new ideas, renewed motivation and commitment to action. That's the trick though, some people can hear encouraging, affirming comments as patronising or manipulative comments at times so it is important to make sure Affirms 'land' and have the impact intended. One way of doing this is to use the sentence stem…. "Based on what you have just said it seems that you have strength in…………." When it is based on immediate evidence from earlier comments and some just-described event it is more likely to 'land' and be well received.

And it is good to notice when we look at the literal meaning of encourage - ' to put courage and heart into’ - there is an edge to encouragement as well, suggesting challenge and stretch beyond what is easy or comfortable.

Finding the balance between support and challenge in coaching is more art than science it seems and yet it is something that helps our coaching move from adequate to outstanding.

Who knows what the impact would be if we became more encouraging leaders and coaches in both senses of the word?

How would you be acting differently, speaking differently if you were to be a more encouraging leader or coach? What might be one small step you could take this month towards that?  


About the author

John Campbell BADipEd, MAppSc (Comm Mgt), MAppSc (Psych Coaching) FAIM

John Campbell is Managing Director of Growth Coaching International Pty Ltd, an Australian based consulting organisation that provides coaching and coaching services to school leaders and teachers across Australia and now in the UK, the Middle East and the Asia/Pacific region.

John has been a high school teacher, a curriculum consultant and over the last decade has led leadership and coaching skill development workshops for thousands of educators across Australia and internationally. In addition to his teaching degrees he holds a masters degree in the psychology of coaching from the University of Sydney.

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