As leaders, we are equipped with many tools, and it is up to us to know how to use them and when to use them. With the world in the state it is right now, the tool of Encouragement is a tool for today.

There is not a person on the planet who never needs encouragement, especially during these challenging times. Yes, even leaders need encouragement, yet as leaders, our first priority is to give encouragement, not receive it.

Giving everyone a first-place trophy is not encouraging. It is a placation. People need personal recognition that they know is sincere. There is a place for encouraging the whole team, but nothing can replace personal, one-on-one encouragement.

How often do people need encouragement? With every breath they breathe. That may not be practical, but there is always time for a quick praising while passing in the hallway, or a positive word during a Zoom call.

Look for praise opportunities: when a person does a good job; completes a task; shows respect of another worker. The motivation for praise need not be exceptional performance. This is not a performance review intended to give constructive feedback to overcome deficiencies. This is a time to keep each other going, to know that someone cares, to let people know they are not alone.

Look for reasons for hope: an improving trend; a positive comment from a customer; a problem solved; a new plan; an anticipated problem that never happened. These days it may be difficult to find reasons for hope, but it is important to find them and even more important to share them with others.

Management skills are often grouped into hard skills (ability to manage cash flow, create a plan, organize a work area) and soft skills. Offering encouragement to each and every member of your team (even those above you on the organizational chart) is a vital and timely soft management skill.

How will you use this tool today?

Dave Bartholomew is retired after a career as a business adviser to leaders around the world. He and his wife Nancy also owned Simply Living Farm, a retailer of goods for a sustainable life. Prior to that he was CEO of several manufacturing companies in the outdoor recreation industry. He has authored three books, written numerous regular columns and taught at many universities. He can be reached at