Business leadership means bringing out the best in employees


One of the 12 essential behavioural characteristics of leadership we teach is “leaders are good at giving encouragement, and they are never satisfied.” This is one of the toughest components of leadership and it requires tremendous skills to balance the need for improvement, even when things are good with keeping spirits high on a daily basis. What it entails is simple sounding, tell people they have done a good job and get them excited about doing even more.

Of course, you can see that if one side of the formulae is not balanced properly things will go off-side quickly. What makes it critical is the fact that from the employee’s perspective there has always been a need for acknowledgment and recognition as the highest desired piece of what makes them satisfied, even over money!

One of the things that a lot of leaders have is the fear if they praise their people, they will become complacent, thinking, “OK, we are great. Let’s coast.” If done inappropriately this could be a result. The opposite could also happen with the employees feeling so dejected because there is no recognition of their efforts or, as one of our client’s workers told us in an interview, “It doesn’t seem to matter how much we do because they always want more.” The leaders were good at being never satisfied but not good at giving encouragement.

With some coaching from us, the leader group was able to develop the right approach and improve morale and performance. This is where the skillset comes into play. It must be learned and practiced properly in a very balanced fashion to achieve the right results.

The coach will then offer suggestions and, more importantly, ask questions that spark thoughts on how to go beyond the current performance level.

Think of this as an athletic coach who speaks to the athlete about what they did correctly and where they are making improvements. The coach will then offer suggestions and, more importantly, ask questions that spark thoughts on how to go beyond the current performance level.

The characteristic is balancing the celebration of success with motivation to improve. You can see where this could be simple or complex. A simple “thank you” can be appropriate or a big blow-out barbecue might be better, or a company event could be a way to celebrate to make people feel appreciated and create a desire for more of that type of recognition.

On the other side of the scale is how to motivate people to want to do better. This is where the real skills are tested because you certainly do not want the message to be disheartening but rather you want it to be optimistic and uplifting. As in a recent article by Gallup stated: “Managers play a huge role in your employees’ daily experience and engagement level. Give your people the kind of leader who will lift them up. Give them a coach, not a boss.” This is the attitude that will keep you the one who’s driving.

Jay Perry is the co-author of the book Success Manifesto with Brian Tracy and the founder of Ally Business Coaching, a process improvement and leadership development firm. He is also an education partner with California Coast University in Santa Ana, California. He can be reached at

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