27 September 2023

Encouraging the discouraged: Having faith in turbulent times

Start the conversation

At this time when it is easy to become discouraged, John Eades* has some strategies for leaders, helping them to overcome their doubts and continue to inspire others.

In 1832 Abraham Lincoln lost his job and was defeated in a bid for the Illinois State Legislature.

That defeat set off a string of failures and heartbreak for the future United States President.

His business failed, leaving him in debt for the next 17 years; his fiancé died unexpectedly; he had a nervous breakdown causing him to be homebound for two years.

He lost seven elections.

While we will never know what was going on in the heart of Lincoln during those setbacks, he never gave up and got discouraged.

Not only did his tenacity and courage pay off, but the skills and toughness he acquired helped him lead during turbulent times.

Today he is widely considered to be one of the greatest Presidents in the history of the United States.

If there is a time you’re going to get discouraged, it’s now.

A seemingly endless period of uncertainty, fear, and doubt clutters your mind daily.

Instead of getting up early to read, workout, or beat the traffic, you are faced with the all-important decision about whether you should shower or not before you start remote work.

Regardless of your particular situation, no one is exempt from getting discouraged.

The word ‘courage’ comes from the Latin root ‘cor’, which means ‘heart’.

So literally, the word discouraged means, disheartened.

While no one would blame you for having a broken heart about the current situation, it’s losing your heart that we can’t allow to happen.

While it’s possible for one superhuman professional to single-handily find ways not to get discouraged, that’s the exception, not the rule.

We need leaders to encourage us and keep us moving forward.

If you find yourself in a position where you need to do this for others, here are some strategies.

Start with empathy about their situation:

One of my mentors told me early in my career: “Everybody is going through something whether you know it or not.”

Start from a place of empathy.

Remote workers are juggling working from home and teaching their kids at the same time.

For the first week, my kids were out of school, I didn’t believe it was a tough job.

In subsequent weeks, I’ve experienced the challenges of teaching my son.

I have great empathy for any working parent who is in the same boat.

Even if you haven’t been in an employees’ exact position, you can still empathise.

When you do this, they will be more open to the strategies and the words you decide to use.

Focus on your environment to maintain hope:

One of the exceptional leaders I wrote about in Building the Best, Bob Caslen, provided insight in an email interview.

He said: “One of the most important things leaders must do in crisis and adversity is to maintain hope.

“If hope becomes forlorn, then morale quickly plummets.

“In order to maintain hope, the leader must know the environment; where the challenges are and where the opportunities are.

“He or she must have the agility and adaptiveness to find the opportunities and to develop and pursue them.

“It is in this environment, that hope is maintained, and where hope can grow — and when hope is strong, people do not get discouraged.”

Take Mr Caslen’s words to heart and focus your efforts on understanding your team’s environment.

Explore strategies and solutions that will allow your team to quickly adapt and pivot to provide hope to your people.

Use specific words and phrases:

Words are powerful things.

To keep your team from becoming discouraged, you must use strong and powerful language.

In an episode of the Follow My Lead podcast, Mike Robbins, author of the new book We’re All in This Together, shared a powerful lesson.

He said: “Even though it doesn’t seem like it, you have more than this moment requires.”

I don’t know a better, more powerful phrase for you to use with your team on a regular basis more than this: “You have more than this moment requires.”

Here are a few more of my favourites.

You were born for this; if it were easy, everyone would do it; you haven’t given up yet for a reason; you are a blessing.

If you’re uncertain about your ability to lead your team away from discouragement, remember Abraham Lincoln.

He continued on for years, with no proof or evidence, seemingly alone.

The difference is your team doesn’t have to do it alone. You can lead them.

Take this responsibility seriously by having empathy, maintaining hope, and using specific words to encourage them.

Remember leaders who don’t encourage will eventually be surrounded by a discouraged team.

You have more than this moment requires.

Whom are you going to encourage today? How are you going to encourage your team this week?

*John Eades is the Chief Executive of LearnLoft a leadership development company. He is also the host of the Follow My Lead podcast. He can be contacted at johneades.com.

This article first appeared on John’s LearnLoft blog.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.