Are you encouraging the people around you?

by | Aug 17, 2021 | Leadership

Recently, I was on my regular run along the country roads where we live. As is my habit with oncoming vehicles, I will give a quick nod and mouth “Thank you” to drivers for moving into the other lane and not running me over.

Last weekend, a car was approaching with a teenage girl in the passenger seat, and presumably, her mother at the wheel. As I glanced up to say, “Thank you” the young girl looked directly at me and clapped her hands in an enthusiastic effort to cheer me on. And then they were gone.

I nearly stopped in my tracks, because that small gesture hit me in a much deeper way than that young lady could ever have imagined. She had no way of knowing the burdens I was carrying from a tough week.

“Don’t quit! You can do it! You’re doing great!” I saw her say to me at a time when I needed that pick-me-up more than I realized. It is easy to allow the weight of leadership to get the best of us—especially at a time in our society when too many people are more willing to criticize than compliment leaders.

That is why I was struck by that small gesture from someone who I did not know, nor will likely ever meet. It reminded me of how important encouragement is to each person in life. And leaders are no exception.

Decades ago, my grandfather Dr. George W. Crane, a syndicated newspaper columnist, started what he called “The Compliment Club” as part of a class assignment at Northwestern University, where he was teaching at the time. The concept was very simple—to be a part of the club you had to simply pay a sincere compliment to three people a day for at least 30 days. What started out as a college classroom assignment turned into a much broader movement through his national column.

Leader expert Dr. John Maxwell details the origins of the Compliment Club in his book Encouragement Changes Everything. As Maxwell points out, it was similar to what he calls the Elevator Principle, that is, our interactions with people each day have the power to either bring them up or bring them down.

My grandfather was not only the founder of the Compliment Club, he was a practicing member for the rest of his life. It was fascinating to watch people’s reaction when they greeted him in a restaurant with the typical, “How you are you today?” And he would sincerely respond with, “Better now that I’ve seen you.” Simple words like that took no extra time, but absolutely brought what he called a small ray of “verbal sunshine” into a person’s life.

Who doesn’t need an extra dose of encouragement? We all do these days. Are you someone who needs encouragement? Then, let me be the first to tell you, “You are making a difference in the lives of people around you. Keep going!”

And who are the people in our life that may need a small word of encouragement today? You never know how your small gesture of clapping for someone, or offering a thoughtful word of encouragement can be just what the doctor ordered. Let’s commit to encourage someone today, and tomorrow, and the next day… and the next…

Don’t wait. Offer an encouraging word or jot a quick note and send it their way. You will make a meaningful difference in their life, and yours.