From Where I Sit

by | Leadership

The turf was a rare, rich, flat piece of land positioned at the foot of the Northeast Georgia mountains. It was midsummer. And it was hot; it was very hot! I was primed for an irritation.

The Garden

The garden that simply began as therapy for this speaker was about to yield bonus dividends of beans, squash, cucumbers, and Silver Queen Corn.  My excitement was intensifying. I was particularly looking forward to enjoying the corn. The Silver Queen Corn is to corn as a standing ovation is to possible responses for the speaker.

As my excitement escalated, so did the heat and humidity. The salty sweat was burning my eyes; mosquitoes were stinging my ankles; the sun was scorching my face and arms. I was ready for an aggravation.

Kudzu invades the garden

I looked into the garden and noticed that kudzu, with deep tuberous roots, had jumped the creek and was choking six rows of my Silver Queen Corn. The kudzu became the irritation and aggravation. The laboratory for the kudzu was my garden.

There is another genre of kudzu that invades communities, corporations, associations, and individuals throughout our country. While it is almost impossible to kill the kudzu in the garden, it is possible to kill the kudzu that grows within and between people. This kudzu between people equals a plethora of emotions: negativity, low self-esteem, and jealousy. This kudzu impacts profits, retention, and morale. Kudzu is the reason so many team members quite before they quit. Many individuals are pursuing their pensions, not their passions.

Examples of Kudzu

There are recent examples where kudzu has seized opportunities:  the blotched call during the Rams/Saints 2019 playoff football game, weeks later, this kudzu continues to thrive within many. For others, an internal/external encouragement created a strong “move beyond attitude and behavior”.

The nightmares from the fall fires in California in 2018, the winter Arctic blast of snow storms in 28 states in 2019, and the thousands of U.S. Military events across the globe presented many opportunities and examples for encouragement. First responders gave and received encouragement. Neighbors and the community encouraged each other. The home, churches, schools, offices, athletic fields, and concert events have become crucibles for that very dangerous kudzu. These horrendous events represent tremendous moments for one-on-one encouragement. We will not survive these challenges, events referred to above unless we dedicate ourselves to encouraging one-by-one daily.

Kudzu can equal a counter-productive attitude and negative approach that chokes outgrowth and increased productivity. Are you trying to encourage yourself or someone who might have a negative attitude or a bad case of kudzu?

Start a practice of creating your own motivational environment. You cannot give want you do not have, so learn to encourage yourself. Set realistic goals for yourself. Build your practice to be encouraging others. Do not merely say: “Thank you.”  “Good job.”  “I appreciate that.” Be specific! “Particularize!”  Use “because” and tell them why they did such a good job. Number one-by-one what you found specifically helpful and appreciate. Catch them doing something right and encourage them. Surprise them with a “particularized win review”.

Investigate why they did well. Blandness benefits no one. A win review, in its simplest form, is an expression from you to them that affirms them by stating what they did and why it was so effective.

How well do you affirm?

Are your affirmations as specific as your confrontations? Practice a “win review” verbally and in writing. Practicing your words of encouragement will help to make these statements more natural. Using the word “because” will help you to be specific.

There are times when you will find it difficult to keep qualified people on your team. Remember to pay attention to their accomplishments along the way. Do not assume that team members know how you feel about their performance. Practice strength affirmation. You are either fueling the discouragement cycle or you are feeding the encouragement cycle.   

The nasty, cantankerous, tuberous roots run deep. And the roots of encouragement can grow deeper. The battle against kudzu requires recognition of following:  specificity over generalization, journey focus verses destination focus, and the reality that you cannot give what you do not have. Encouragement equals an enigma. It can appear as friend or foe. It can verbalize, it can be very quiet. And it never ends, yet it can always begin again.

The roots of encouragement grow deep.

Stephen is the best-selling author of 26 books, including What Do They See When They See You Coming? He has also written countless articles for a variety of publications and has produced multiple audio books and video programs. Stephen has appeared on PBS Television and XM Sirius Satellite Radio. He continues to hold one of the highest invite-back ratios in the speaking profession.