By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.

Director, Yeshua Institute

Recently we came across an article that asks an important question of all leaders in every leadership context: “Do you foster a culture of encouragement?”

Why is a culture of encouragement so important?

Think of culture as soil. And think of your goals – at home, at work, and in your other roles -- as the harvest that the soil produces. We all know that the better the soil, the better the harvest that will emerge from it.

But we should also know that wise farmers don’t leave the quality of their soil to chance. Maybe they can’t control weather, which is another critical component of successful yields. But they can control -- or at least profoundly influence -- the quality of their soil. And if they don’t, the likelihood that they will have a good crop goes way down.

Culture matters -- everywhere

So it is with culture in human systems. Unless we consciously foster a culture that truly encourages good outcomes, our outcomes are likely to be mediocre. Of course, “fostering a culture” means much more than just generating words.

To truly foster a culture, leaders have to walk the talk. If their behaviors don’t affirm their words, they’re written off as hypocrites and a very different kind of culture takes root.

The article we happened on about fostering a culture of encouragement was written by John R. Stocker, author of Overcoming Fake Talk: How to Hold REAL Conversations That Create Respect, Build Relationships, and Get Results. Stocker is president of DialogueWORKS, Inc., and has been involved in organizational development work for over 20 years.

Stocker’s focus is on work roles. But what he says is true no matter what leadership role we are considering. In fact, I think it’s most important with what I consider the most important role any person could ever have – parent.

Parents are God’s stewards of His loved children. Those children come to us as tiny bundles of need, and they rely on us to shape their views of themselves and the worlds in which they live. With a lot of sincere encouragement, we can help them grow into whole, happy adults living purposeful lives. Without that encouragement, it's more likely that their adult lives will be rife with anxiety, disappointment and failure.

In Stocker’s article, we noticed that he addressed the critical issue of creating a healthy culture of encouragement with a series of eight questions that leaders in every leadership context should be asking themselves. They are:

1. Do you express a positive attitude toward the objective or goal to be accomplished?

2. Do you trust your team to meet your expectations?

3. Are you patient when things don't turn out as planned?

4. Are you supportive of the work and efforts of others?

5. Do you express appreciation?

6. Do you ask for and provide feedback?

7. Are you inclusive in sharing the objectives that you are trying to meet?

8. Do you ask for the viewpoints of others?

In each case a leader should be able to respond affirmatively. If you can’t, you still have some work to do.

Discover more about what Stocker says about each question here.