“The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount.”
What is a reinforcing leader? Do you know any reinforcing leaders? How do you become a reinforcing leader? Why would you want to become a reinforcing leader?
These are the principal questions going through your mind as you read these few introductory sentences to my latest blog post. I have a very few short seconds of your attention to get you interested so you will read on and pick up some additional tools for your toolbox. Let’s go!
A reinforcing leader is one who cares as much about other leaders as they do about themselves and they act upon this. The other leaders I am talking about are subordinates, peers, and superiors alike. A reinforcing leader recognizes there is great strength in being supportive to others who are engaged in the same duties, experiences, and struggles that fill the spaces of our leadership challenges.
Reinforcing others is what leaders do. We don’t typically put a particular name to it unless it becomes a habit, skill, or event that we believe needs to be shared with others that could make them more effective as a leader. I believe that of all the skills I picked up as leader, I am proudest of this singular one.
I picked up this skill across my leadership journey and I believe it made me a better leader. I started doing it when I was away from my normal duties and my mind had drifted off to thinking about those I served and worked with. As I would think of my fellow workers, friends, and team, I typically reminded myself of the possible challenges that faced them because I was not present. As we leaders know, sometimes challenges do not appear until we have stepped away for some reason and it is these particular moments when I recognized a simple word or two of support from afar went a very long way towards driving an outcome that was positive for the people experiencing it.
A kind word is like a spring day – Russian Proverb
In addition to my targeted short message, I picked up two simple words that I tried to focus upon in all my messages and in my closing: “stay strong.” I chose stay strong as it was what I needed to hear most frequently across my journey from my leadership to keep me focused and engaged in the fight and it was what I rarely heard. I typically heard it from my wife when we would pray together or when she saw I was being weakened by the struggle I was engaged in. Somehow Kerry and I have always recognized that these two simple words re-energized us both.
A reinforcing leader never uses these positive reinforcing opportunities to be the 2000-mile screwdriver back into the workplace for manipulation of events or personnel. These opportunities are always used to build others up, energize their strengths, remind them of their resiliency, and to let them know you care. A leader’s role is to take care of the organization and the people; a reinforcing leaders uses these small opportunities as one additional tool to make that happen.
Consistent positive reinforcement is the fuel that keeps the fire burning long enough to complete the change you desire – Anonymous
As I journeyed along my leadership path I worked at reinforcing others whenever possible. Email made this easy as I could craft a simple message and launch it in a few seconds and I believed I was helping other leaders. Most messages were never replied to; this was not a task where I expected a tangible return. I saw this, and still do, as a betterment of humanity task from one leader to another.
As I grew in comfort with this small and personal leadership tool, I reached out to higher level leaders who I recognized were experiencing great challenges. Often times these messages received a simple one-word reply of, “thanks” and I knew that I had done my small part to strengthen that very-senior leader who at that moment most likely really needed a boost.
I recognized this small tool was worthy when I received this short message from my youngest son Ryan as I was heading into a very challenging leadership role. I have carried it in my pocket for these past twelve years of my leadership journey as a strength tool and as a reminder that you may never know who you are making a strong impact on in your leadership journey but you must always lead like you are impacting every single one you come in contact with along the way.
So, I offer this possibility for each of you leaders. Consider being a reinforcing leader as you make your way across your leadership journey. It is easy, builds strength in people, and increases your effect as a leader in ways you may never realize. Stay strong!