Truett Cathy asked, “How do you identify someone who needs encouragement? That person is breathing.” This question is powerful in both its truth and simplicity.
Building culture is difficult, but not complicated. We often forget that despite our cultural, political, or religious differences we have much in common. Human beings have a deep desire for affirmation and encouragement. We live in a world that is hyper critical and extremely fast paced. There may even be someone reading this post thinking “I don’t have time for this fluffy stuff”. Most of us hear criticism much more than praise and it has a lasting impact on us.
Too often, students and teachers enter school buildings only to have the optimism beat out of them by our obsession with achievement. Many businessses assault employees with an emphasis on the bottom line with little regard for their deep need for encouragement. Think back to the best teacher, principal, or boss that you’ve ever had. Chances are good that they encouraged you. Imagine a school focused on encouraging students and not on tear scores. Imagine a district of those schools or a state full of them. Imagine an office focused on encouraging employees and customers alike. You get the idea.
Performance management systems receive a lot of hype in the business world and increasingly so in education circles. These systems are built on metrics that are meant to identify areas for growth. I believe this notion is flawed. We are acutely aware of what we don’t do well. What most of us cannot identify is what we do particularly well or better than most. Where do we excel and how can we build upon it? Where do our students excel and how can we encourage them?
I’ve heard leaders reference the emotional bank account time and time again. The concept is simply that each interaction makes a deposit through encouragement or a withdrawal through criticism. We must recognize that some of our students, teachers, or employees come to us with accounts that are already depleted. In fact, some are in emotional bankruptcy. Be the Chief Encouragement Officer of your organization and watch student, teacher, employee, and customer engagement skyrocket. We all need it because we all indeed are still breathing.