Defeating Discouragement

A few months ago, I gathered with a few former colleagues to catch up as well as revisit old times. When we had worked together years before, our roles frequently put us in the spotlight. Unlike some jobs where you can either fail or succeed in utter anonymity, our job performance was witnessed by every leader in the organization.

This intense scrutiny led to frequent fatigue. And it also meant that mistakes could not quickly be forgotten. You can’t forget what others feel compelled to rub in your face.

During a particularly rough time, one of my managers was particularly discouraged.  So I met with her over coffee and told her how I had dealt with the same kind of pressure in the past.

“When you feel discouraged, when you feel like you’re taking a beating every day, when you feel that you get no praise for the work you do, when you feel like people see your mistakes only, don’t stop doing anything. But start giving more praise and encouragement to others. Because it comes back to you. The more you give it, the more you get it.”

I ended by reminding her that you can’t control other people, but you can control how you respond to the people around you.

Fast-forward to the small gathering a few months ago. That manager came up to me to say “Thanks.” She told me how she put that suggestion into practice. Whenever she felt down, she would spend time sending emails to people, thanking them for their help. She would send personal notes to those who had made her life easier. And she would call the bosses of employees in other departments who had gone above and beyond the call of duty. Instead of ignoring the efforts of her team members by telling herself That’s what I pay you to do, she made special connections with each person, thanking them for their work.

And for her personally, those seemingly small efforts netted her a heap of encouragement and gratitude. Her discouragement got replaced with increased energy and vitality in her role. And even less surprisingly, her team loved her in return. They performed at the highest level, keeping mistakes at a minimum.

Feeling discouraged at home or at work? Lead a special giveaway, one involving praise, encouragement, and support. Your kids driving you nuts because you feel like you are a chauffeur, cook and laundromat? Find something your kids are doing well, something that pleases you. And tell them. Feeling clubbed at work? Don’t pass the beating on to your employees. Instead, find some way to boost them. They will return the favor.

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