I wish I could just leave this post at this quote because it is one of the truest statements I have read about encouragement. Simply stated, people work better encouraged than they do discouraged.
I mentioned this topic was coming last week and that it paired fairly with being approachable, and it truly does. If you think highly of your people and you know that they think highly of you, too, they will come to you for just about anything. However, criticizing people for the work they do will get you nowhere relationally.
Unfortunately, encouragement is not as long lasting on the human psyche as criticism is. I can count on one hand how many specific times I have been encouraged, and this is not because I’m not encouraged often – I am. It’s because that the encouragements help me to move forward and then their purpose is served and they expire. Not so with criticism. Criticism creeps into people’s minds and create insecurities deep in their heart. A simple statement such as, “You suck at your job” (extreme, I know), is enough to send someone into thoughts about how they’ll never be good enough.
No one is perfect at this; no one can be completely encouraging all the time, but as leaders, we have to be careful what we say. Leadership is not full-time damage control, but it’s easy for it to end up that way with just a few inflammatory statements.
I have heard said that we must critique without a critical spirit. This means that we can correct and assert our opinions, but we cannot criticize the person. Needless to say, we especially can’t criticize the person on a consistent basis. Further, with artists, this gets very tricky. An artist’s work is a part of who they are; to say that you don’t like something they’ve done is equivalent to saying you don’t like their baby. Not that all artists are sensitive people, but you must be sensitive when talking about a piece of who they are. You must remain encouraging even in the process of refining and critiquing.
If you find yourself with a critical spirit, take some time to reflect on why you are that way, and work out some practical ways that counterbalance that spirit. I promise that your people will work better and harder when you look at yourself first and fix your critical spirit.