It never ceases to amaze me what I continually learn from my grandchildren.  I thought I heard it all, learned it all and experienced it all when our four children (now 38, 36, 32 and 30) were growing up but now I am learning new things about life and leadership from my grandchildren.

A few weeks ago my wife and I were spending the day with my daughter, Anna’s, four children. I was doing simple things with two of her three boys. At one point, I was throwing and catching a good size ball. Each time Cam (3) caught the ball, I would clap and his face would light up. 

Then I stopped clapping but he didn’t stop needing the affirmation. So, each time I tossed the ball and he caught it, he would remind me to affirm his achievement of catching the ball by saying “clap Poppi, clap Poppi!” (they all call me Poppi and my wife, Susan, is Bubbe.)

As Cam kept reminding me to clap and affirm him,  I thought of how simple and easy it was to clap, but also how important it was to clap.Cam is no different than adults who serve with a leader and need to have the leader “clap” when they do something noteworthy. It doesn’t have to be a big deal in your eyes to merit a “clap.” Clapping (affirming, encouraging, applauding) someone takes so little time, means so much but is not practiced much; at least in my experience with leaders.

Clapping can be in the form of a note, a public word of encouragement and praise (you hit a homerun on that project…how you handled the volatile situation last week was nothing short of genius.) Or, it can be in the form of a  gift certificate to a favorite restaurant. Sometimes a hand-written note causes the needed feeling of “I did something right and made a contribution.”

Within an hour I was in back yard with Jude (5) who was demonstrating his baseball  techniques. If I wasn’t paying close enough attention, or if the other adults in the backyard were not paying enough attention, Jude would remind us in a very loud voice to “Look at me….look at me!” He wanted us to notice what he had just done.

The connection to the world of adult leadership was easy to see,but not easy to do…consistently.

I have never met a person who felt they were encouraged too much. Many employees look for other jobs, not due to disliking the job but due to not being affirmed enough as a valued team member by their boss.

Sam Crabtree, in his book “Practicing Affirmation” writes,

“Affirmation is like an invigorating sudsy shower after a long day of manual labor. It’s like a cool rain after a long, hot dry spell. It delivers a combination of relief, respite, hope, optimism, satisfaction, and energy. It’s life-giving. It blesses. Do you want your relationships to be more refreshing to you? Then serve up banquets of refreshment for others. When our mouths are empty of praise for others, it is probably because our hearts are full of love for self.”

One of the things that, without a doubt, builds up team members and allows them to know they are making a valuable contribution is lots of claps and look-at-me’s.

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV).

Sad to say the gift of discouragement is at times more prevelent than the gift of encouragment in the ranks of leadership.

How are you doing at clappping for those you are leading?