CEO: Chief Encouragement Officer
It happens fairly regularly. I’ll hand my business card to someone, wait a beat, and watch them smile as they read my title - Chief Encouragement Officer.
I started my business, Giant Leap Consulting, in 2002. My personal and business mission is the same – to help people and organizations be more courageous. It was as clear to me then as it is now, fear is bad for business. As a consultant, I had seen the debilitating effect of fear on performance and morale. Too many leaders, unfortunately, use fear-stoking as the primary means of prodding results. I decided that I would dedicate my career to changing that.
Having worked with thousands of executives across the globe in the last decade, I’ve come to believe that everyone, regardless of where you sit in the organizational hierarchy, can be a chief encouragement officer.
Here’s what it entails:
- Promote Purposeful Discomfort: Growth and development are a function of discomfort. One of the best things anyone can do for their careers is to purposely seek out situations that put them in over their heads. Not so far out into the deep waters that you drown, but enough that you have to stretch on your tippy toes to breath.
- Focus on Opportunity, Not Risk: Too many leaders hyper-focus on risk mitigation and not enough on opportunity optimization. Focusing on mitigating risks puts an emphasis on reducing the likelihood of bad outcomes. Focusing on opportunity can increase the likelihood of the best possible outcomes. Focus on the good you want instead of the bad that you don’t.
- Drive Out Fear: Edwards Deming, the famous quality pioneer, exhorted leaders to “drive out fear.” Good advice. Workers don’t care about what “keeps you awake at night.” They care about what gets you up in the morning. Give people permission to be courageous. Recognize and reward them when they do things that are difficult, challenging, and scary.
To be clear, being a chief encouragement officer doesn’t mean being soft, “nice”, or likeable. It also doesn’t mean being a rah-rah cheerleader. Patting people on the backs, when done too much and without sincerity is just another form of leadership manipulation – trying to get people to perform through trickery. Rather, being a chief encouragement officer means to hold the interests of others and the interests of the goals of the organization as equally important. Goals provide momentum and direction for organizations and workers. But without motivated and committed employees, goals will not be accomplished. Goals are the ends, people are the means and chief encouragement officers are loyal to both.
Being a chief encouragement officer at the top of organizations also means to activate the courage that lives inside their employees – quite literally encouraging them. It makes no difference if they hesitate and gulp when faced with big challenges or changes, as long as they keep moving forward, they are being courageous. Courage isn’t fearlessness. Courage is fearfulness – to take action despite being afraid.
Bill Treasurer is the author of Leaders Open Doors, which focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. Bill is also the author of Courage Goes to Work, an international bestselling book that introduces the concept of courage-building. He is also the author of Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace, an off-the-shelf training toolkit that organizations can use to build workplace courage. Bill’s first book, Right Risk, draws on his experiences as a professional high diver. Bill has led courage-building workshops for, among others, NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, SPANX, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. To learn more, contact email@example.com.