We cannot encourage other until they are empowered
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As a conference speaker, workshop facilitator, and one-to-one coach my favorite part of the job is encouraging others to step out of frustration and step into fascination, helping them to create positive experiences for themselves and for those around them. But very early on in this career I realized there was a problem with encouragement, and the problem is that encouragement is not an isolated task. We can’t simply say to others “You can do it!” because maybe the people we’re working with can’t do it!
Have you ever experienced this? Words that are meant to encourage are met only with discouragement? Lacking any sense of clarity or confidence, such efforts are at best hollow and at worst harmful. When we’re encouraged without the backing of empowerment, before long we’ll become frustrated and will only want to give up!
The Prerequisite To Encouragement
It’s one thing to tell someone what to do, but quite another to empower them by giving them the relevant tools, knowledge, and skills to do so. Because of this observation it’s been my experience that the prerequisite to encouraging others is to first provide them with empowerment.
I like to think of empowerment as the sail for a boat. Sails are an appropriate tool for providing direction through the seas of life and, for someone who’s floundering, a sail can provide the meaningful direction and guidance needed to get to where they want to go. And just as important as having the relevant tools is also having the knowledge of how to use them. Empowerment, then, encompasses being armed with both the appropriate tools as well as the strategies for how to apply them.
In a previous article I shared ideas for building a bridge to engagement, to connect from where someone is to where we want to guide them. In that piece I discussed the importance of rapport in fostering a meaningful connection. In this article I’ll share another “R” word that will help to provide empowerment to others. The word is Relevance.
People are more likely to care about what we have to say when we’re able to demonstrate the connection between our objectives and their needs. In other words, our task is to find out what motivates others and then build a bridge that connects to those motivations.
Conveniently, the best way to facilitate this is by asking questions, and it’s the very same questions that help to build engaging rapport that will also help to provide relevant empowerment. Once we get to know others we can begin to connect the dots, revealing a clear picture of how the encouragement we want to deliver connects to the empowerment that they need to succeed.
Before walking out on stage at a conference, stepping up to the front of a meeting room, or sitting down with a coaching client, I reflect on five relevance questions, and you may wish to use your own version of these:
To help you dive deeper into empowerment, consider these five reflection questions:
Of course we all want to be a positive influence in the lives of our friends, family, coworkers, and community, and focusing on relevance and empowerment will help you to achieve that. But before we go, it's important to remember that to empower others, you must first be empowered yourself. After all, it's possible to give to others what you yourself do not possess. So in your journey discovery, remember to awaken your own inner power first, by gaining your own relevant knowledge, skills, and resources. When you do, you'll be well poised to provide maximum value for the people you serve.
Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.