– A couplet by Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese-American poet (1883-1934)
Have you ever been compared with someone better? How do you feel when someone questions your credibility or when your mistakes are made known to others? That’s exactly what others feel when you slight them or as a leader dismiss or ignore a team member’s sincere efforts. One of the most agonizing human pains is the sense of unworthiness; everyone wants to be encouraged, and in my social interactions and counselling sessions with others, I often hear a loud unspoken voice, “Please encourage me”
Make others feel worthy
One magic formula for effective leadership at home and work is ‘make others feel worthy’. The world recognizes exceptional talent and achievements; there are many awards and recognition in the media for them. However, although most people wish to be successful achievers, it’s certainly the appreciation for sincere efforts which is a more deeply felt human need. The need for encouragement is universal; it supersedes the desire to be popular or successful.
A spiritual leader is alert to recognize the behind-the-scenes sincerity which most people-especially those struck by the glamour bug- fail to catch. While most corporations award achievers, a spiritual leader notices those free from pretence or deceit; he honours genuineness and integrity. With this as his or her guiding light, a spiritual leader is sensitive to appreciate an upright school teacher, or honour a guileless housewife more than the media hounded stars with mere superficial, theatrical skills. A spiritual leader looks for the substance of ‘goodness’ in all, and even if it’s a mere spark, he fans it and kindles the fire of positivity in them; he affirms and makes them feel worthy.
What prevents us from encouraging others?
When we are full of ourselves; either terribly arrogant or tremendously insecure, we find it difficult to encourage and love others.
I once told an ashram leader that one of his mentees was a great singer, and I just love the prayer chants he leads in the morning. As I expressed heart-felt appreciation for his student’s musical talents, I saw the leader alarmed. “Never tell him he’s a good singer”, he gravely expressed concern, “he needs to be humble, and if you speak all good things about him, he’ll be spoiled and may get puffed up.” I reasoned “But how will he feel encouraged?” to which the leader snubbed me; “you don’t worry about that. These boys need to be tough and disciplined, not pampered and spoiled with praise” I protested, “I agree we shouldn’t flatter them but there are certainly ways of encouraging positively; While urging him to be prayerful and humble, we can also appreciate his devotional singing and these kind words will go a long way and help him sustain his other services.” When I saw that the leader, a good friend of mine, couldn’t see merit in my proposal, I shared the sobering story told by Dr Maxwell Maltz, the author of the long-time bestseller, Pscho-Cybemetics.
‘I want to catch that tenth ball’
Once a wealthy widow hoped that her son would take over the family business. The son however chose to enter a different filed. She then approached Dr Maltz for help, requesting him to convince her son that he was making a big mistake. The doctor met the boy and searched the reasons for his decision. The son explained, “My father was hard working and honest. However he never encouraged me or praised me, and thought this way I’d grow to be self-reliant and independent. As I was growing up, he taught me catching the ball game in our yard. The goal was to catch the ball ten straight times and I would catch the ball eight or nine times. But on the tenth throw, he’d deliberately throw the ball way over my head or on the ground in a way that I would miss it”. The young man paused and in an emotion choked voice said, “He never let me catch the tenth ball-never! And that’s why I want to get away from his business; I want to catch that tenth ball!” Dr Maltz discovered that the boy grew up feeling he could never measure up, never be perfect enough to please his father.
I told my ashram friend that as a guide he may also alienate his students if he withholds honest appreciation and only admonishes them. I helped him envision a future scenario where we lose this talented member because no one encourages him here. He may either leave or go away to another ashram with bitterness in his heart. Do we really want that? My concerns seemed to make sense to my friend; he trusted me and soon rectified his relationship with his counselee.
Let’s not be miserly; shower appreciation when it’s due and encourage all. I heard a quote, attributed to many, “I have made it a rule never to be with a person ten minutes without trying to make him happier.” If we can do this, our own hearts would be massaged a great deal; encouraging others is the best gift you can give to yourself.Google+