I have never met a person who felt they were encouraged too much. Maybe those people are out there, but I have never met them. Most people are starved for affirmation and encouragement and get little of it.

Many come from families where it was sparse or non-existent; which was the case in my family of origin. Even among workers in churches and those on your team–those who report to you want to know that who they are and what they do, based on who they are, is valuable, significant and that they, and their efforts, are noticed and appreciated.

The renewed emphasis on expressing thanks–acknowledging both privately and publicly the person and what they are doing–has been written about and addressed in a myriad of ways over the last few years, both in the business world as well as in the Christian leadership world. 

It may then come as a surprise that a recent Gallup pole (mentioned in an interview with Mattison Grey) uncovered the fact that 65% of workers said they had not received any positive feedback in the previous year. 

There is a good chance that we are missing an important truth related to giving positive feedback.

Mattison Grey, a Houston-based leadership coach and author with consultant Jonathan Manske, wrote a book titled “The Motivation Myth.”

Ms. Grey speculates that the praise, affirmation, feedback and encouragement people are receiving is perceived as being more about others and the organization rather than about them.

If we are not careful, the praise can be perceived to be all about making the boss or company look good and not about the work done by the employee. The issue is not that they didn’t get any feedback, but that they didn’t hear it. What they hear is: “Ireally appreciate what you did as it is important to me and has helped the company. It has helped me achieve my goals. It has helped the company be more profitable, etc.”

Grey suggests that the praise be focused on the worker and not over emphasize yourself or the company. “You did an outstanding job of delivering this product on time.”  “You hit a home run with that new idea you presented at our meeting last week.”

The main issue is that what came across loud and clear was not about them but about the boss and the company.

In a Christian context, let’s take it one step further by focusing on who the person is in Jesus and how Jesus has gifted and graced them to be able to do what they do. “I love the fact that you are gifted in administration by Jesus and that He has enabled you to do the awesome work you did on the project we just finished. Thank you for your faithfulness and dependability.”

Okay, application time:

Are you too busy to praise people at all? Do you need to slow down and take time to acknowledge who they are and what they’re doing? Are some of the 65% previously alluded to people who work for you or with you?

Do you have too many people reporting to you so that the greatest need is to develop another level of leadership? When you offer praise, compliments, affirmation and encouragement, are you making it about them and Jesus who has gifted them and not about you as the boss or the church, or organization you both work in?

I do not do a good job at this. I easily fall into the trap of expecting excellence, faithfulness and dependability in people and don’t affirm enough who they are in Jesus and what He is enabling them to do. I tend to be more focused on what is not right rather than what is right and affirming that. I need to grow in celebrating all wins–small and big. I need to catch more people doing something right!

God has been changing me to be more of an encourager, but it doesn’t come naturally or easily to me. I’ve got a long way to go.

There is a Book Note on my website titled “Practicing Affirmation” that deals with this issue.  Check it out.

As you read Paul’s letters to people and to churches, they are filled with thanks and appreciation. Philippians is just one example: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3-5. 

Paul was a great encourager.