The Cycle of Affirmation

What is the secret of helping someone gain confidence and grow in effectiveness?

The answer is in the title, by being an active participant in the cycle of affirmation.

Affirmation leads to confirmation which leads to confidence. Confidence then builds and grows in competence. As we become more competent, we receive more affirmation.    

But there seems to be a step missing: doesn’t competence come before affirmation?   Yes.  However, usually, employees are hired for their existing competence in a certain area. It’s within that area of competence where people are looking for affirmation.  

Many years ago, I was in sales for a manufacturer of office furniture after having left the ministry.  There are many aspects of a salesperson’s life, one of which is giving presentations about their product.  At the time my manager was a supreme presenter and really mentored me.  As salespeople go, I was good, maybe even above average, yet my manager’s repeated affirmation of my presentation skills percolated within me.  Connecting the dots between ministry and sales presentations made sense: I excelled at speaking, teaching, and training.  That confirmation helped me grow in confidence.  The more confidence I had the more I wanted to (and was asked to) give presentations and speeches.  The more I spoke and taught and trained the more affirmation I received.  

Today as a public speaker and author I look back at my interactions with my manager so many years ago as the spark that light the fire that continued to burn within me.  And now, as I teach and write about leadership, I encourage leaders of their respective organizations to affirm people specifically about how they contribute to your organization. 

One of the most counterproductive things you can do is give someone a half-hearted or disingenuous compliment.  It’s patronizing.  “Good job!” is often just a thing we say and doesn’t have any substance. 

People are looking for specific affirmation. What aspect of their work do they do supremely well?  That is the question they have and the question dear leader you must address.  

And, in doing so, you can participate in a cycle of affirmation that empowers and energizes your Team Members to high performance in which the organization is the beneficiary. 


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