The Power of Affirmation
A friend once reminded me that as a leader I may speak at a volume of 2, but I’m heard at a volume of 9! This can be very damaging to others if my criticism is too harsh. But, it can be life-giving if I use my influence for affirmation.
In the book, “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make” by Hans Finzel (Victor Books), we find a section on affirmation. It has served me well as a good reminder on this important function in my leadership. Here is his summary points on affirmation for leaders:
Everyone thrives on affirmation and praise
Affirmation encourages and motivates people much more than financial incentives. It does more to keep people fulfilled than fortune or fame could do. He comments that Christian organizations are sometimes the worst, because there is the attitude that: “They are working for the Lord,” or “They should not look to the organization for affirmation, but to the Lord.”
Leadership has as much to do with “caring” as with getting things done
In the gospels, Jesus spent more time touching people and talking to them than in any other action. Jesus was not primarily task-oriented, even though He knew He had only three years to train twelve men to carry on the movement that would change the world. Touching wounds amid the unbearable pressure to perform tasks – that was the model of our Lord Jesus.
We wildly underestimate the power of the tiniest personal touch of kindness
It doesn’t always have to be a “big” event to affirm people. He gives an example from Tom Peters who shares about a former boss who took 15 min. (max) at the end of each day to jot a half-dozen paragraph-long notes to people who’d given him time during the day or who’d made an insightful comment during a meeting, etc.. He was dumbfounded by the number of recipients who subsequently thanked him for thanking them.
Learn to read the varying levels of affirmation your people need
Obviously, different people require different doses and different kinds of affirmation. The key seems to be that it needs to be genuine not “setting me up to get something from me later,” and not canned. (i.e. everyone gets the same affirmation letter without any personal touch).
When was the last time you intentionally affirmed someone? Is affirmation a regular part of your leadership communication? Have you created a ‘culture of critique’ or a ‘culture of affirmation’ around your leadership?