by Judy Ryan
When I begin working with organizations, people frequently report that a significant challenge for them is a lack of appreciation. Leadership and front-line staff alike say they give their all and don’t always feel valued for their efforts. Many fear they are considered easily replaceable. This discourages and disheartens them. This adds to their stress, burnout, disengagement and trauma. In the absence of positive feedback to the contrary, people fill in the blanks with negative assumptions of indifference at best and disdain at worst. That’s because mediocre or negative connections in the past often taint their faith in today’s connections and so it continues. Then in fear, people withdraw from one another to avoid possible pain or rejection without realizing they are reinforcing and bringing about their worst fears. And fear in one begets fear in others. This is the opposite of psychological safety in which people feel secure in their careers and reputations and in taking risks. What’s the solution?
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Encouragement and recognition of one’s value and even one’s differences are crucial to a healthy sense of belonging and significance. These feed the soul and inspire us by validating contributions, a core need in all people. They are as essential as other basic needs for well-being and yet often go unrecognized. Now more than ever, connecting with affection, curiosity and compassion, especially in the face of differences, is sorely needed. Instead, many feel either ignored at best or judged and abandoned (cancelled) at worst. Such encouragement does not happen on its own. It must be intended, fostered and built into the organizational processes. At LifeWork Systems we bring these forward in many ways. We teach encouragement, trauma-informed, recognition strategies that help people provide the presence, caring and validation needed by all. These are just a few:
1. Encouragement Flooding: A group of coworkers recognizes and then intentionally floods a person with encouragement when they see he or she is discouraged.
2. Encouragement Feast: Coworkers at all levels break into small groups and everyone takes turns expressing appreciation to each person in the group, ending with that person sharing what they appreciate about themselves. This is done until each member has been appreciated by all.
3. Monthly Mentoring: Each mentoring session starts and ends with appreciation for the one being mentored. The favor is returned as the pair reciprocates mentoring in support of each other. In the beginning of our work, for some this is one of the only times they are recognized with appreciation and supported in their success.
4. Dialogue Tool: People learn to witness each other in this deep-dive communication in which they recognize the other’s words, worldview and feelings without imposing their own agenda. Witness of this kind is incredibly validating, causing people to experience another’s care for them as they put themselves aside to acknowledge the other with patience and consideration. They relax into offering the same in return, leading to authentic community and extraordinary cohesiveness and teamwork.
5. Mind Trust and Healthy Venting: These tools greatly reduce and eliminate gossip and blaming, which are the opposite of encouragement and support. People commit to go directly to one another with challenges so they resolve them rather than carry grudges and poison the well by involving others in toxic conversations.
The above are a few examples of how to help you bring forth encouragement to support one another so your people feel empowered, lovable, connected and contributing. These are examples of systemic change and only part of an entire process needed to expand the potential of individuals and teams. Let us know if we can help you bring life-affirming practices needed to turn a toxic or neglectful culture into a healthy one so that you and your people can co-create all your business objectives while enjoying encouragement, caring and recognition.
Judy Ryan (judy@LifeworkSystems.com), human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Join her in her mission to create a world in which all people love their lives. She can also be reached at 314-239-4727.
People hire LifeWork Systems because we help businesses become agile and manage their priority system: their human system. I hope this article helps you make sense of what’s most crucial to your evolving organization!