Avoid harmful encouragement — 5 free and powerful ways to help your team members manage challenges

"You can do this!" "Never give up!" "You can't fail." How would you take these encouragements when you were having a bigger challenge to overcome?


For some time, we've been encouraged to focus on positive aspects and look at the bright side of issues to cultivate an optimistic outlook to help us to thrive in life, in relationships and at work responsibilities. But the positivity boosting has gone to extremes and has started to turn its back on us. The employee might feel even more discouraged after getting these seemingly empowering "you got this" confidence boosters.


As empowering as it sounds to coach people to "just do it" like Nike, this way of encouraging your team members is harmful in many ways. First of all, it prevents from exploring the true issues and getting solutions for them. Now you can see social media full of alternative ways of encouragement to so-called toxic positivity.


The real downside of this short-sided approach is it takes away listening and compassion - two powerful ways to truly be of service to your team without any extra costs. Instead of confidence boosters, you want to build their confidence by getting to the bottom of things and helping your team members to

  • discover their personal and company's available resources

  • identify what else they would need to overcome any limitations for success and

  • how to gather those new resources that will support them to move forward.

If digging deeper, connecting with your subordinate and having an open conversation feels unfamiliar or awkward, I have a few suggestions for you. Give them a try - these five ways to help your team, and you, are totally free yet effective.

Celebrate and nurture the important relationships
Ask about how you can be of service to your team.

1. Encourage to share by active listening


The power of listening is not used enough. I've noticed this in my clients how they appreciate just to be listened to and heard. The way to do this is active listening as we call it in coaching. First, focus on being present with your subordinates - individually and in a team meeting. This means that you're not thinking about other things at the same time but making time for being with them, listening to what they have on their mind and seeing how you can help them to move forward.


So make yourself available, eliminate other distractions and be ready to connect with your team. When you have cleared your mind from other pressing issues and urgencies, you are able to show up to them and listen. To make the dialogue active, ask them clear questions that can bring up what you want to know how they are doing. This will show them that you care and want to offer your support for them to succeed.


You can use as simple questions as:

  • What is going on for you right now?

  • What has gone well for you this week? (It's good to start with empowering questions)

  • What challenges have you encountered? (You want to know what's stopping them from succeeding)

And remember to be open to hearing their responses and even getting some feedback. What could be worse than letting your team members open up and be vulnerable telling their pain points and then turn your back on them? Small or big issues, you want to know what is slowing them or even stopping them from progressing their part in reaching the collective goals.


2. Ask how you can help


Before you start worrying about how to provide the support that your team needs, focus on gathering the facts what they need. You might have an understanding of their needs but before you ask them you cannot be sure. If something I've learnt is to never assume.


When you've heard what challenges are limiting them to succeed in their tasks, the next questions can be around offering your support. So, before you provide with any solutions or advice, get a bit deeper into their minds and ask for example:

  • You have an important part in this project so it can get challenging. Do you want to talk about it?

  • What can I do to make it less stressful for you?

  • How could I support you to overcome this challenge?

  • What would you need to help you move forward with this?

  • What do you want from me, our team or the company that would help you forward?


3. Show that you have their back


Now that you are aware of your team members' challenges, needs and ways you could support them, show that you have heard them and that you are there for them. Here we focus on developing your relationship and rapport. If you're worried about how much budget you have to provide the support they need, this doesn't cost you anything. Offering your support is more powerful than you might think.


So, now you can think about concrete ways on how you can show them that you have their back. This can be for example:

  • opening your calender for them to book 15-minute meetings/calls anytime you're available (remember to make sure you have available spots in your days)

  • set up a check-in time when you'll discuss again how things are going and what has changed

  • tell them what you are going to do and when to proceed with their requests

In this way of promising to do something for them, you show that you are there to support their work and their succeeding.


Support your team to thrive by showing that you have their back and believe in them.

4. Help identify their strengths


Before you move forward to action planning, you want to draw out their strengths and skills that you think will help them to overcome the challenges. Instead of telling them what you think, ask them first what they see as their strengths and then provide your insights of their proven track records. You can help them to notice their strengths and resources using these kinds of questions for example:

  • What has worked for you before in similar situations?

  • How can you use those experiences to progress in this situation?

  • What strengths do you have within you that will help you to overcome this challenge?

Then you can summarise what they have told you and reinforce their views on their strengths by providing your feedback on their previous performance and successes. If there is something else that they haven't noticed, point those strengths out but remember to use examples that back that up - evidence-based feedback is more effective than guessing what they are good at.


5. Support prioritizing their efforts


Hopefully, you have started to build the confidence of your team members at this point. Creating a safe space for them to share their pain points, challenges and feelings as well as showing how you have their back and believe in their strengths to overcome this challenge is a great start. This psychological safety, empathy and compassion build the foundation for the next step - helping them to break down their targets and choose where to focus on first.


When your subordinate feels overwhelmed, confused, stuck or consumed, you can really help them by prioritizing how to use their energy, time and efforts. Coming up with new ideas and solving problems need brain capacity. To make sure they have room for creativity, innovation, new ideas and solutions to come, you can help them to make brain space. One way to clear the mind is to give time. The second is to reduce the task list. So, here are a few examples to help them come up with the action plan to move forward:

  • What is the most important for you to focus on now?

  • What can you do next to get one step closer to your target?

  • How realistic and attainable does this plan sound to you?

  • What concerns do you have doing this? And what needed to happen for that not to be an issue?

  • How excited do you feel to take action? (What would increase your excitement?)

Make sure that you set times when these actions are to be done and how the progress will be measured.


Remember that you set a checkpoint earlier - make sure you celebrate the successful steps before checking the next steps forward. Making them acknowledge their own progress and successes will reinforce their feelings of self-efficacy and build confidence to take on the next challenges.


Let me know how these helped you to support your team members to feel more confident and take action. When you want to build your resourcefulness as a leader and courage to drive changes, book a consultation with me for us to discover your desired outcomes and how I can help you. I have two one-on-one openings for The Transformative Growth support in March. Do not hesitate to contact me and ask more about the personal coaching opportunity.

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