Affirmation Through Example and Encouragement

By Chad Hershberger

A big part of leadership is being positive and giving reinforcement to those that you are leading. Leadership requires evaluating others’ job performances and giving them feedback. As a performance evaluator, you need to point out both the good and bad.

Inappropriate criticism weighs us down. It often makes us not want to do our job the best that we can. However, affirmation leads to appreciation, aspiration, transformation, and celebration. Giving candid communication by modeling gentle feedback and listening to followers will help to encourage staff to work hard to achieve their personal and professional goals. Point out all the things your staff are doing well!

At times, leaders also must point out inappropriate behavior such as immaturity, inexperience, stress, lack of knowledge, illness, fatigue, or poor judgment. If you have to reprimand, it is important do it in private. I’ve always liked the mantra “Praise in public; criticize in private.” Manage undesired staff behavior in positive ways, with tact and compassion. Be firm, friendly, and objective. Never use physical punishment, humiliation, or intimidation as a means of behavior management. Instead, do the following:

  • Ask the offender what their understanding is of the rule or guideline. This allows them to get away from the “you are right, they are wrong” mentality.
  • Seek clarification as to why they chose to break the rule.
  • Make sure you leave the staff member thinking about their behavior, not that they are being treated poorly. An important part of the reprimand is a reaffirmation that lets them know they are valuable and that you still have faith in their values.

At camp, we tell our staff to “Oreo cookie it.” Make sure you tell positive things to start and end the conversation (the cookie). Do the reprimanding in the middle (the filling). That way, you begin and end with a positive statement and create a good atmosphere to deal with the reprimand.

In the Bible, Elizabeth is a model for us as a leader who encourages and uses positive reinforcement. This month, try to read Luke 1 and think about these questions. Also, ponder the ways that you can use affirmation and encouraging words to help motivate those you lead.

  • What do you imagine Elizabeth to look like; how do you think she spoke; what kind of person do you imagine her to be?
  • What kind of hopes and fears do you think Mary had as she traveled to see Elizabeth?
  • Elizabeth has the right word for Mary and Zechariah. How was she able to speak in such an effective way?
  • How do you imagine Mary and Zechariah responded to Elizabeth?