As parents, to the first born, we all love to play and experiment invariably, when the first smile dances on the angelic innocent face, we rejoice by clapping, hugging, etc. The infant watching these childish antics of his/her parents feels encouraged to repeat the act. It is another matter that the infant is oblivious to “why” the parents, otherwise looking normal individuals are jumping up and down; but on the infantile mind it is established forever that what he/she did, created joyous excitement for the parents. Similarly, we recognise the first crawl, the first step; this expression of rejoicing reinforces upon the young mind, that these actions create “healthy noise”, at home. So, therefore it must be replicated often. Hence becomes crawling and later walking without support a natural act. From this divinely inspired behavior, we learn that unknown to the recipient, we can all be encouragement to others, to perform, and to their best, most often.
Now, for a minute, imagine, that on taking the first step, if any of the parents were to shout angrily, what are you doing? Stay put. You will fall and hurt yourself. Do you think, the infant will have any courage to initiate taking the second step? The infant would freeze.
Just as infants and children perform within the ambit of approval and not within the confines of fear of receiving a rebuke, stare or anger from either of the parent, so does a person in any organisation. Give encouragement, you get results. As manager of people, if contrarily you terrorise and create a sense of fear, you will get output, which at best, will yield unsustainable results. There is no enduring ability in a performance generated through fear or intimidation. Those who are never encouraged will never be found to do anything of praise. Lives of great men, all remind us (encourage us), we can make our lives sublime. Abe Lincoln as President faced numerous challenges.
He had the most formidable opposition. In fact, many historians contend that he became famous upon his assassination than when he was alive. Of the personal effects founds upon, as he lay dead in the theater, was a five dollar note (our politicians, please re-read this!), and a press clipping, completely worn out, whose contents showered praise upon him, appreciating for what he was endeavoring to achieve. Possibly, appreciation in the press was far and few, and the one that did, he carried in the pocket. It proves the point that even great leaders need to be encouraged.
I was still holding his index finger, when during an evening stroll, my father who had returned from an out of city tour, asked me “what book are you reading, these days?” I replied, “Oliver Twist”, by Charles Dickens. He asked me what do you know about Charles Dickens? My response, I recall was random, nothing substantive. Then my father narrated, “Charles Dickens, as a child, whilst on an evening walk, said to his father, who by any standard, was of very low economic means, that he(CD) would like to buy, “Glady’s Hill”; a house perched on a hillock with a vantage grand view. Dickens Father, did not react angrily or said anything relating to its impossibility of accomplishment, considering they were poorest of the poor. Instead, he said to young Charles, “you may have it one day, if you were persevering”. And O boy! Charles Dickens stuck it out, despite repeated rejection of his many manuscripts, he kept writing and sending to publishers, without fear of rejection. Ultimately lady luck smiled upon him. He became famous and wealthy and, of course, he bought the “Glady's Hill” Cottage. That’s the power of encouragement. In this narration by my father, the new word added to my vocabulary was “perseverance”. I asked him the meaning of the word, he said, the word implies tenacity, determination, resoluteness, firmness of purpose or simply pertinacity. This was an encouraging lesson for my young mind. Perseverance lends dignity and grandeur to actions.
I believe, some writers, the not so well-known would gather as a group who called themselves, “Inklings” to review and ask each other', what they were writing? They would never criticize each other's work, instead "appreciate and encourage”. From the very group emerged CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. It is said that if Lewis had not possibly encouraged Tolkien, we would not have had, “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit”. The creation of the epic, “Ten Commandments”, Cecil B DeMille, has a remark attributed to him, “the person who makes a success of living is the one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly”. That is dedication.
Again, for creating the practical impact of the power of encouragement, I would refer to my Father, who I think had mastered the art of reverse psychology, would invariably remark, just as I would be leaving home to appear in any examination, “remember, son, there is always a next time”.
After years today, I realise how significant that line was for my performance; it boosted my confidence- this is just one exam, not the end of the world - there is so much more to do; I would be filled with such thoughts, helping me ultimately to decimate, the buildup pressures of anxiety, panic, etc for performance. Encouragement instills power.
At workplace, colleagues need role models not just critics. Discouraging remarks to reports and colleagues dent sometimes incorrigibly the levels of encouragement, that are most needed to deliver the best of results. It is the ability of the manager to draw out the best that lies within his team members.
To the dismayed or the distraught, have faith in God, He works wonders. It instills hope for encouragement. I have witnessed many managers indulging in silent encouragement. Such merely create favourable conditions for talent to emerge and avail itself of the opportunity to seek excellence of output.
Those co-workers, who are spiritually engaged seek encouragement from the role they wish to play in the Greater Scheme of life. In organisations, we have connected people who find it encouraging to their own selves, to give more than normally others would do. Enhanced perks and emoluments are tools of temporary motivation, but encouragement is in the realm of the non-quantifiable, and hence lasting. There is no trade-off between compensation and encouragement. These usually are mutually exclusive … encouragement roots and spreads.
Anil Kumble, the finest spinner of the ball in the game of cricket, who broke Jim Laker's, longtime record (of having taken 19 wickets in a test match) by taking all the available twenty wickets in a single test, was continuously being goaded by his captain Mohammad Azharuddin, that he could do so. It proves that the best of the best also need not just encouragement to do better; but continuous and unabated encouragement. Our own Moin Khan, with his vociferous encouraging remarks to the bowlers of the class of Imran, Waqar and Wasim, was irritating to most batsmen.
The manager in a similar vein has to periodically, and sometimes in an unplanned move, resort to holding sessions with colleagues to boost their morale for exceptional results. All managers must pep up, support, stimulate, inspire, exhort and persuade their team members. Lack of encouragement has inherent breeding tendencies of laziness, absence of interest and effort. Discourage and ensure failure; encourage and be assured of sustainable success.
The writer is a freelance contributor