From the Gallup Organization to IBM, several major surveys have been conducted and the results tabulated. Each recent survey indicates there is one leadership trait, above all others, that is needed for success and growth.

It is the power of encouragement. Whether you call it positive feedback, or recognition, it is consistently mentioned as something every leader must do in order to achieve their objectives. Another key insight, however, is not just doing it, but doing it right.

In their State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders, the Gallup Organization cited a full 67% of employees preferred managers who concentrated on strengths, as opposed to weaknesses; in other words, building people up versus tearing them down, on the job.

The IBM Corporation also recently conducted a significant employee engagement survey, entitled the Work Trends Survey, with participation from more than 19,000 of its employees around the world. The level of satisfaction from employees who were recognized and encouraged by their supervisors was almost three times greater than those who had little or no engagement or recognition. Interestingly enough, the IBM survey also provided additional support to the point that employee retention is far greater for those who are encouraged.

The Gallup study brought clarity to the need for constant communication between a supervisor and an employee. The means by which you communicate, be it by phone call, e-mail, or in person is not as important as the fact that they are communicating. In another observation, Gallup also found that regular employee-employer meetings are more than likely to result, again by a factor of 3 times in more employee engagement and satisfaction. Daily communication was shown to be optimal.

The IBM study presented further perspectives on employee encouragement. First and foremost, IBM told their managers that encouragement will only work if it is sincere. In fact, disingenuous comments end up doing more harm than good.

Insincerity implies dissatisfaction with someone’s performance. Be sincere with your encouragement of a job well done when they have a well written e-mail, or given an excellent presentation. The way you communicate should be at an appropriate level of recognition for the effort that was expended by the employee. In other words, you probably don’t want to give someone a one sentence “good job” as you walk by them after they have given a one hour presentation that they worked on for weeks.

The IBM study went on to say “A majority (58 percent) of respondents in our survey report receiving recognition via at least one of the (below) surveyed channels, although a large percentage (42 percent) say their organizations do not use any of these channels to provide recognition. Of the 58 percent who said their organizations used at least one of the technology-enabled channels for recognition, the most popular channels are email (58 percent), real-time communication such as instant messaging (25 percent) and online meetings (18 percent).”

Encourage the potential you see in others, as well. If you see a promising quality emerging in an employee, encourage them to develop it and expand it. Just be certain when you bring it up, that you follow through with the appropriate level of help and support needed to get them to that level of potential.

The results of the surveys don’t leave too much to the imagination. Encouraging employees in this day and age is an absolute necessity. But you should also be certain to concentrate on the strengths of the person you are encouraging. You need to be consistent with the frequency of your feedback. Daily communication is very important. How you encourage them can be just as important, in other words, what form of communication do you use; in person, via phone call, or one of the technology enabled means like email, instant messaging or on-line meetings. Finally, your conversation must be meaningful to the recipient. Specifically said, your comments need to be heartfelt.

In order to grow your business, you need to recruit and retain the best possible talent. William Arthur Ward said “When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.” That quote really conveys the message of encouragement.

Be intentional with your encouragement. If you are, it will most certainly give your business a significant return. Words of encouragement will cost you very little, but they could mean all the difference between the growth or decline of your business.

Dan Arens is an Indiana-based business growth advisor.

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