Mean people don’t climb mountains. I have yet to meet someone on a mountain that wasn’t pleasant, friendly, and helpful. Above the tree line, the climate and topography are trying to kill you, so people must stick together. Every year while on vacation in Colorado, my kids and I summit at least one fourteener. It is a challenge. The combination of altitude, rugged terrain, and just the sheer length of the hike (that will be nearly vertical) make it difficult. But this year something was different.
When we arrived at the trailhead for Mt. Sherman, we were surprised to find three passenger vans. The vans had brought about 40 high schoolers who were part of a church youth group from Ft Worth and a few adults. They were already making their ascent by the time we got there, so we ended up catching up with them and passing them. We each tend to climb at our own pace. My daughter is a very capable climber, but the altitude combined with her asthma does make her slower. But not this year.
Every time we checked to see how everyone was doing, my daughter was hanging right with us. At one point, she made a comment that the church youth group was a very encouraging group. The time she spent climbing with them motivated her to increase her pace and keep moving. As we moved through their group on the descent (they were pretty strung out along the route by then), they were still being very vocally encouraging to everyone in their group and to us as we passed.
Every leader needs to understand and practice encouragement.
A research study at Carnegie Mellon determined that supportive relationships are linked to a person’s willingness to pursue opportunities. The study used 163 couples, but the results apply to other relationships as well. When people who matter in our lives encourage us and support us in our endeavors, we do better and are willing to take on more difficult challenges. Additionally, we have better relationships with the people in our lives who are encouraging. Encouragement and supportiveness literally make for better relationships and happier people.
What leader wouldn’t want that? Having people on your team who reach for opportunities, try harder, and have better relationships with the people around them sounds like a leader’s dream. It is a dream that is easily within reach. All it takes is to be an encourager. Here’s what that looks like:
- Be a cheerleader. If you like someone, you want to see them achieve their goals. Just like the cheerleaders at a sports game, a leader should lead the whole team to support each other. If you don’t like the people you are leading, you are in the wrong job.
- Be interested when someone has a new idea. Humility is the best look for a leader. We do not have all the ideas and certainly not all the best ones. A leader should welcome and celebrate fresh ideas from anywhere.
- Don’t argue with everything people say. Nothing says, “I’m not your supporter,” like being argumentative. You know the type. No matter what you suggest, for yourself or the team, they have a reason why it won’t work or they correct some little thing instead of seeing the idea for what it is. Don’t be that guy.
- Pay attention. Supporters don’t ignore people; they notice them. They see what is being attempted and offer to help. They speak into people to remind them that they have what it takes. They genuinely support others’ dreams and keep pushing because seeing you get what you want elates their soul.
Encouraging the people we lead is one of the ways we demonstrate that we value the people we work with and care about them. Telling our team, individually and as a group, that we believe in them, trust them, support them, and generally think they are awesome is one of the most significant things we can do. It transforms the environment into a place that is safe to take risks and reach high.
At Kimray, I see people being encouraging all the time. I love being part of a supportive community. We are not perfect, and sometimes we step on each other’s ideas or efforts, but that is not who we are. We are a team, and every single person adds something unique and necessary to our mission. If we are going to reach our mountain top, we will each need the support of the others. Lead by example, and make sure you are an encourager. After all, it is The Kimray Way.