Leading Ideas: Take the time to encourage others

“A student asked Soen Nakagawa during a meditation retreat, “I am very discouraged. What should I do?” Soen replied, “Encourage others.” — Story from Essential Zen

Consider this:


Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling discouraged, continuing to focus on your problems makes them worse? The reason is simple. When problems dominate your consciousness, they keep your energy in a negative place. They color everything you see. To turn your energy around, shift your attention. A great way to do this is to encourage someone else. It takes you to a more positive place – and has a wonderful way of snapping you out of a funk.

Something I often tell my clients is that in addition to managing the activities of their organization, they’ve also got to manage the energy. As leaders, others take cues from them on how to think, act, and feel. “I’ve noticed that when I get down, everyone else gets down too,” a client recently commented. “It becomes a negative spiral around the office. And while there may be many ways to reverse it, I’ve found none more effective than simply taking the time to acknowledge and encourage others.”

Try this:

The next time you feel discouraged about a certain problem:
1. Recognize you’re feeling discouraged (this is often the hardest step).
2. Physically move from where you are – take a walk.
3. Connect with someone who you know could use your help and lend an ear.
4. Help or encourage them.
5. Come back to your problem with a new perspective.

Questions to consider: How often to you encourage others? How do you do it?

Doug Sundheim • Executive Coach • New York, NY • •