Category Archives: recognition

Encouraging Leadership

Encourage team

Encouragement provides the emotional fuel that enables people to hold longer, reach farther and dig deeper .

In a recent article Dan Reiland perfectly articulated  important role encouragement plays in the life of any true leader. I have found these principles true of any great leader I have ever been in contact with. It is one of the key qualities of a good leader, and so, I encourage you to be an encourager.

“51% of Leadership”

Encouragement provides the emotional fuel that enables people to hold longer, reach farther and dig deeper than previously believed possible. Encouragement is 51% of leadership. As a leader, your role is to lift people, to build them up and help them believe in themselves in a way greater than they have before. So let me ask you a question. Do others see you as an encourager?

Encouragement imparts courage. My call to ministry came from the highly encouraging leadership of Dr. Orval Butcher, then pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church located in a suburb of San Diego, CA. Pastor Butcher believed in me, perhaps more than I believed in myself at that time. I was a Criminal Justice Administration major in college, but God spoke to Pastor about a different plan for my life. I didn’t have enough faith or courage to hear God for myself in the early stages of my call. I knew I loved the church and invested huge amounts of time serving in the College Ministry but didn’t know if I wanted the “life of a pastor.” Pastor Butcher’s encouraging words made the difference and enabled me to hear God’s voice on my own.

Encouragement isn’t something that you do from a checklist of “things to do today.” It’s a way of life for a leader. Encouragement is not a soft expression from a weak leader. The toughest of leaders understand that it’s something core to sustained success. Essentially, encouragement comes from a deep love and belief in people and a desire to see them experience life in a better way.

• Leaders who are encouragers naturally draw people to them.

Let me raise the bar of definition for encouragement. As a leader in a local church, if you are an encourager, when you are in a public setting, people will naturally migrate to you. This is not about a charismatic personality. It doesn’t matter if five people seek you out or fifty-five people seek you out. The point is that people will physically move to you because you cause their life to be a little brighter. I’m not talking about people who want permission, an extension cord or keys to the offices, but people who just want to be around you!

Let’s be honest, life is wonderful but it’s difficult. Isn’t it? Got bills? How’s your health? Do you have kids? Nough said! Life is good, but it has plenty of challenges. Life will press people down, so anyone who consistently lifts people up (sincerely) gains the ability to influence—meaning to lead!

If you are a leader in a local church and people don’t migrate to you, there is a reason. You need to discover what it is. Ask someone you trust, who loves you, and will tell the truth. For now, start encouraging others. Do it sincerely and often.

• Leaders who are encouragers communicate with a positive bias.

John Maxwell is the most positive person I know. He has high faith in people and sees life for its potential over its problems. He’s not delusional. John does know that life can be difficult. He just refuses to get stuck there. We were in Israel (February 2010) and John’s knee had been bothering him as a result of knee surgery. Climbing all the hills and steps from Masada to Jerusalem was a challenge! But not for one moment did that deter him from great leadership on the trip, serving people, (including Baptizing dozens of people in the Jordan,) and creating fun all along the way. You just never hear John complain. That’s the way it is with an encouraging leader, they communicate with a positive bias.

I’m not talking about a syrupy salesman type who promises the moon and delivers little, but a leader who knows a smile and a “can do” attitude goes a long way in any endeavor. I’m sure you’ve met leaders who seem to want to tell you how much work they have to do, how tired they are and how hot it is outside! They are not encouragers. Perhaps you have a lot of work to do, you may be tired, and it may be scorching hot outside where you live, but people don’t want to hear that. They already experience that themselves! I’m not suggesting lack of authenticity. You need to be real. You need a few close friends who you can blow off some steam with. But in general, if you want to lead, you must communicate with a positive bias. People need hope!

• Leaders who are encouragers are quick to invest generously in others.

I love telling this story about one of my mentors and encouragers – Keith Drury. He’s a professor in the Ministry Department at Indiana Wesleyan University. They call him Coach D! When I was a skinny kid with lots of dark brown hair, (My how things change), Keith demonstrated such generosity that marked my life for good. I was young and clueless in ministry and Keith was pouring leadership into a group of us young guys. I didn’t have any money and he knew there was a cool leadership conference I needed to attend. After our meeting, he handed me a book to read and stuffed it in my briefcase. When I later opened it, I found two one hundred dollar bills stapled inside with a note that said, basically, I believe in you, and see you at the conference!! I was blown away, that’s a lot of money but back then, it was a ton of money! More than the money was Keith’s investment of time and encouragement in me. The investment has dividends even to this day!

• Leaders who are encouragers know the value of spiritual encouragement.

Jump into the book of Acts with me. 19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Acts 11:19-24

Barnabas is a spiritual encourager. He intentionally looked for “evidence” of grace and encouraged the people about their spiritual progress, and to remain committed in their faith. Perhaps it goes without saying, but encouraging people in their faith is at the very epicenter of your role as a spiritual leader. Your main job is not to grow a church, it is to grow people. When this happens your church moves forward and the Kingdom advances!

• Leaders who are encouragers are grateful for what they have.

As a leader, I find that I am often not satisfied with “where we are” but I am consistently content with “what I have.” This is more than semantics for me. I don’t think it’s generally in the nature of a leader to be satisfied. Leaders are progress oriented. Yet, we must be content with what we have in the moment or gratitude is lost in the process. And gratitude is an essential attribute of leaders who are encouragers.

If you, as a leader, focus on what you don’t have, it will be very difficult for you to encourage others toward who they are to become. I call this competing leadership energy. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you can’t pour your energy into what others need because those others become part of the solution to get you what you want. When you are grateful for what you have, you naturally are freer to encourage others. Bottom line, you can’t encourage if you are not an encouraged person yourself.

Take all this in knowing that leaders, even the best of the encouragers, occasionally have a bad day. That’s normal. But a leader will do whatever it takes, to get through it and over it, and get back in the game. That’s my encouragement to you. You will have an occasional difficult day, but it’s all worth it. Get some counsel from a friend, shake it off, remember your calling and keep on going.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Correction does much, but encouragement does more.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe


Becoming a Person That Others Want To Follow Part 2

new life umbrella

Leaders nurture those who follow

It has been said that if you are leading but no one is following you are simply taking a walk.  This is a simple but profound statement that every leader must ask themselves, “Is anyone really following me?”   In our previous post we discussed the importance of a leader gaining greater influence and becoming more effective in their leadership.

If you remember we said that leadership is sort of like an “Umbrella.”  The umbrella is in the hand of the leader.  Under the protection of that umbrella are all the departments of the organization.  The success of each department can never, will never, rise any higher than the level at which the leader holds the umbrella.  Leadership sets the standard.  The higher the standard the more effective the leadership.

So how can we “Enlarge our Umbrella?”  How can we gain greater influence and build the kind of characteristics that others would want to follow.  There are some key elements that will help you become the leader that others would want to follow:

1)  Concern – the ability to show you care
Great leaders have the ability to show concern for people’s deepest needs and interests.  This doesn’t mean that you have to be mushy, not everyone is, but you must sense their interest and concerns, show that you care and leave them with the feeling that what they are going through matters to you.  One of the greatest statements I have heard regarding this subject is, “Be more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are in making them feel good about you.”

2)  Help – the ability to reach out
To put this simply…Great leaders are Great helpers!  They are out to see others profit; to do better.  They are willing to help when and where needed to make the other person successful.  Zig Ziglar says, “Help enough people achieve success and you will never lack success for yourself.”

3)  Action = the ability to make things happen
Something always seems to be happening around a person with charisma.  The charismatic person has an aversion to being boring.  They have an ability to create action…the kind of action that people want to be around.  They are movers, shakers, history makers and that kind of energy is contagious.  If you want to be a great leader that others want to follow, then be a person of action.

4)  Results – the ability to produce
People want to be on the winning team and great leaders that produce will never lack for people to want to join their squad.  Be a person who executes and who gets results.  Develop a winning tradition in your life and career.  If you develop this kind of characteristic in your life, people will do almost anything to partner with you.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.”
– British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery

Becoming a Person that Others Want to Follow – Part 1

under blue umbrella

True leadership is like an umbrella

Michael Korda, the author of the book “Power” was asked to devise a list of the most powerful people in America. His article was titled, “The Gradual Decline and Total Collapse of Nearly Everyone.” He said in his article “Not so long ago teachers ran their classes; generals ran the army, policemen were feared and obeyed; college presidents were respected figures and so on down the line. America was, in effect, ruled by authority figures.” He went on to say that throughout the years power had led to abuse, therefore America felt they could do with out it. He expressed that America is depleting itself of strong and effective leaders.

Whether you subscribe to Michael Korda’s opinion or not, you must agree that strong figures in America that have influence, respect, authority and admiration are becoming less and less in our society. This does not mean that we don’t need leaders; instead this should be an awakening to anyone in leadership that we must become better than we are, if we want to continue to lead our organization with greatness. America needs leaders and your organization needs a strong and effective leader as well.

What is an effective leader? According to a great leader himself, Fred Smith, “Leadership is influence.” That is simple, overused at times, but still profound. A person may have a position of leadership, but if he is not affecting the thoughts and actions of others, he is not a leader.

Leadership is sort of like an umbrella. Imagine an open umbrella held by the hand of a leader. Under the protection of that umbrella are all the departments of the organization. The success of each department will never rise any higher than the level at which the leader holds the umbrella. Leadership sets the standard. The higher the standard the more effective the leadership. This principle will work for business, church, family or any other form of leadership.

The key for strong leadership lies in the ability to discover and increase effectiveness. Unless we tap into the keys for increasing effectiveness our leadership will be weak. So what must we do? How can we become more effective in our leadership? How can we enlarge our umbrella so that we can increase our circle of influence and impact?

In my next post I will give you life changing principles that will help you increase your effective which ultimately will enlarge your Leadership Umbrella.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women
to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.”
– Marshall Bernard Montgomery

Creating a Pleasant Work Environment

happy team

Happy People are Productive People

Disneyland has a slogan “The happiest place on earth.”  Wouldn’t that be a great slogan for your team or company – that your place of work is the “happiest place on earth?”  What do you think your fellow team members or staff feels about the work environment that has been created?  Would they describe the climate of your company as the “happiest place on earth?”

Happy people are productive people.  If you want to your people to be productive, creative, loyal, hard working and full of life and energy, then it is essential to create the healthiest, happiest environment possible.  People work better under the right conditions.  You win, your staff wins, and your customers win…everyone wins!

Here are a few tips to help you create “The happiest place on earth:”

• Be less inclined to give advice and more inclined to take it.
Create an environment that is receptive to advise from others, rather then so quick to give it out.  By doing this you will develop individuals who desire to grow and value the voice of others.

• Identify great qualities in others.
This can be difficult especially with those who are difficult to get along with, but you can do it.  Find the unique qualities with those in your circle.  Applaud those qualities privately and publicly.  Create an environment where people seek the best not the worst.

• Go out of your way to show appreciation.
Be gracious with your words.  Say things like:  “thank you,” “good job,” “I appreciate all you do,” “you make this a great place to work,” and “we couldn’t do it without you.”  Think about it for a moment – words shape lives, add value to people, set the tone and, the greatest thing of all, words are free!

• Promise only what you can deliver
The environment must be one of trust and mutual respect.  This kind of environment is difficult to create if you have people that don’t deliver on their promises.  Be a person of your word… someone that others can count on.

• Have fun
Do something out of the ordinary and have fun.  Shut down the office and take everyone bowling or miniature golfing.  Take everyone out for an afternoon ice cream or to a movie.  Do something fun and out of the ordinary 2-3 times a year and your people will begin to notice the difference.

If you want to create an environment of productivity and creativity, then you will need to make your place of work “the happiest place on earth.”  Enjoy, get creative and think outside of the box.  I promise that if you work hard at making a happy place, your staff will work even harder for you.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
– George Bernard Shaw

What every staff member wants from their leader Part – 2

Success or failure is highly dependent on the success or failure of your staff

Success or failure is highly dependent on the success or failure of your staff

Any great leader realizes that their personal success or failure is highly dependent on the success or failure of their staff.  You always rise to the level of those you surround yourself with.  A leader also knows that the level that a staff rises to falls on their shoulders.  It is the responsibility of any good leader to bring out the absolute best in every team member.

Last time we took a look at the first five things that every staff member wants from their leader.  Let’s review them quickly:
1)Your staff wants to be treated as leaders with high value and potential, not as “hired hands.”
2)Your staff wants a commitment to “adult-adult”, open and mature communication.
3)Your staff wants clear expectations.
4)Your staff wants to be rewarded for their work.
5)Your staff wants training for personal and professional growth.

Those are the first five things that your staff wants from you.  Now let’s take a closer look at the remaining five:

6)  Your staff wants opportunity for increasing their responsibility.
If your staff member doesn’t want to grow in their level of responsibility then you might need to re-evaluate them.  Good staff members want to grow in their responsibility because they want to grow personally.  Give them opportunities to increase their duties and their level of authority and watch how the great ones will rise to the top.

7)  Your staff wants to be able to vent disappointment, disagreement and frustration without condemnation.
You must learn to have an open door policy.  You want your staff to feel at ease speaking with you as the leader without feeling like they will be judged or condemned for their feelings.  Work hard on your communication skills with your staff.  If you do this, you will help to build bridges in your organization.

8)  Your staff wants the resources needed to accomplish their work with excellence.
This is a giant issue, especially when it comes to non-profit organization.  In our attempt to save money we minimize our staff by providing inadequate resources to accomplish the work.  Make sure that you set your staff up for success.  If they fail it won’t be because you didn’t provide them what they needed to succeed.

9)  Your staff wants loyalty from you.
Be loyal to them.  Build a place of trust in their life.  They need to feel that they can share anything with you in private and it stays with you.  They need to know that you have their back and that you are on their side.

10)  Your staff wants leadership.
You must be the leader, not based on title but based on the influence in their lives, the vision you provide and the winning atmosphere you create.  You are the leader…so lead.  Learn everything you can about leadership, read every book, attend great seminars, but at any cost learn to lead.  The future of your organization and your staff’s success is counting on it.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines
instinct with boldness and effort – it is ready to climb.”
Pat Riley

What every staff member wants from their leader – Part 1

If there is high morale among staff then high productivity is more likely.

If there is high morale among staff, then high productivity is more likely.

If you want to know the temperature of your organization you need not look any farther then your staff.  They set the climate for all those involved.  They are the pacesetters, the producers and the directors of your organization.  Success or failure rests on their shoulders.

If there is a spirit of harmony and high morale among the staff then there is likely to be a high volume of productivity.  If there is tension among the staff, division in the ranks or a lack of trust from staff member to leader then productivity and morale will inevitably be low.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. once said “I have long been profoundly convinced that in the very nature of things, employers and employees are partners, not enemies; that in the long run the success of each is dependent upon the success of the other.”  Knowing that your success as a leader is dependent on the success of your staff, here are some thoughts to help you understand what your staff wants from you.

1)  Your staff wants to be treated as leaders with high value and potential, not as “hired hands.”
The hired hand mentality is based on the premise of exchanging time for a paycheck, but if that is your mentality that is all you will get.  If you want a staff member who is loyal, committed and ready to win, you will need to treat them with value and respect.

2)  Your staff wants a commitment to “adult-adult”, open and mature communication.
Good communication is done with the heart as much as with the ears and mouth.  Communicate in such a way that expresses compassion and concern.  Refuse to be a dictator, who barks out commands expecting people to jump.  This intimidation produces shallow faithfulness to the leader and the organization.

3)  Your staff wants clear expectations.
Nothing is more frustrating for a staff member then unclear expectations.  They need to know what you expect from them or they will never know if they are hitting the mark.  Write out clear expectations and go over them together.  Review these expectations frequently, evaluating their progress along the way.

4)  Your staff wants to be rewarded for their work.
What gets rewarded – gets done.  It doesn’t always have to be money (though most of your staff wouldn’t complain) it might be something else.  It could be recognition publicly, affirmation privately or a few days off with pay.  Don’t be so “in the box” get creative and find out ways to reward your staff for any size job well done.

5)  Your staff wants training for personal and professional growth.
Whenever you make deposits into your staff members lives you will always reap a great reward.  It may cost time and money but it will be worth it.  Your staff will be better equipped to serve by your side and you will have displayed to them their value.  Invest in your staff, send them to seminars, buy them books, copy articles, do anything you can to resource the people of your staff.

Until Next Time,

Chris Sonksen


“People don’t want to be managed.  They want to be led.
Whoever heard of a world manager?”
– From an article published by : United Technologies Corporation

Closing the gap on recognition

Find creative ways to value them in a sincere manner

Find creative ways to value your team in a sincere manner

Last week I shared with you the importance of effective recognition among your team and organization.  We looked at how recognition ultimately brings out motivation.  If you want to improve performance then the leader must improve their forms of inspiration.

This week we continue on the theme of recognition.  I am learning more as a leader that the gap of perception between leaders and team members is astounding when it comes to the importance of recognition in the work place.  While most leaders agree that recognition is important, few realize how passionately the team members feel about the subject.

Bob Nelson, author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, discovered that what managers perceived as most important to employees was sharply different from what the employees actually reported as being important. Management and employees were asked to rank 10 items from 1-10  (1 being “most” important and 10 being “least” important).  The results below clearly show that to help employees or team members reach their full potential, managers need to increase their awareness of what motivates employees.

Managers Employees
Good Wages 1 5
Job Security 2 4
Promotion/Growth opportunities 3 7
Good working conditions 4 9
Interesting work 5 6
Personal loyalty to workers 6 8
Tactful disciplining 7 10
Full appreciation for work done 8 1
Sympathetic to personal problems 9 2
Feeling “In” on things 10 3

Note the numbers 1,2,3, in red.  What the managers and employees considered important are completely opposite.  The result is simple the managers do not really understand the needs of the people they lead.

Here’s my challenge to you…

a)Know what makes your people feel valued
b)Find creative ways to value them in a sincere manner
c)Let your forms of recognition include: informal, formal & personal
d)Be consistent

I am confident that if you will begin the exercise of recognition you will be on the path to higher performance and productivity.  START TODAY!  Decide right now what you can do and watch the difference it will make!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“We wildly underestimate the POWER of the tiniest personal touch.”
Tom Peters

Steps to effective recognition

Recognition creates a positive emotional response and increases self-esteem

Recognition creates a positive emotional response and increases self-esteem

Think about the last time you received recognition from someone:
How were you recognized?
Was it timely?
Did the person tell you specifically what you did right?
Was he or she sincere?
Could the person giving the recognition have done anything to make the experience better?

Now think about the last time you gave someone recognition and pretend that the person you recognized asked themselves the same questions.  How do you think they felt?  What was their experience?  Do they feel you were sincere?  Do they think you could have done a better job?

Author and speaker Michelle Nold describes recognition as “Motivation that creates a positive emotional response and increases self-esteem, inspiring the recipient to repeat the ideal behaviors and actions, resulting in a lasting improvement in performance.”

The first step to effective recognition is: KNOWLEDGE.  You need to understand the enormous benefits of proper recognition, the most effective way to make it happen and the knowledge and honesty to know if you need to improve in this crucial area.

Below are the result to an annul survey given to employees across the United States.

It is important to receive recognition.
97% Agree    3% Disagree

Receiving recognition motivates me to improve my job performance.
90% Agree    10% Disagree

My manager provides ample and effective recognition.
46% Agree    54% Disagree

What type of recognition motivates you the most?
15%  Formal ceremony with upper management
17%  Timely peer recognition
65%  Sincere appreciation from my manager
3%  Other

Managers should participate in recognition training.
85%  Agree    15%  Disagree
These stats should serve as an awakening to the power and need of effective recognition.  Begin to evaluate your organization and your personal leadership.  Are you effective when it comes to recognition?  Could you use a little training in this much needed area?  Do you give recognition the proper time and effort it needs?

If you are willing to admit you could do a better job in this area, you are well on your way to improvement.  Sit down with a pad of paper, discuss it in your next leadership meeting and figure out a way to bring effective recognition to the people of your organization.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

Quote for the day:

“You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within them.”
Bob Nelson