E…Encourage Each Other’s Success

When I first heard about ENCORE, specifically the first “E” – “Encourage each other’s success,” I thought that meant we would sit around at staff meetings, giving out gold stars and high-fiving each other.

While we certainly celebrate good work and recognize a job well done, it didn’t take long for me to learn that TRULY encouraging success means having the courage to hold each other to a high standard. We have to be willing to say to each other, “No, this isn’t good enough. Try again.”

The first time I experienced this kind of encouragement, it didn’t go well. Remember that scene in “A Christmas Story” when Ralphie turned in his theme paper on the glories of the Red Rider BB Gun? He expected adoration and praise from his teacher and was shocked when he got a lukewarm “C+” instead. Well, I was Ralphie that day. I had turned in some sort of written draft to Dan – I can’t recall exactly what it was, maybe a blog or some copy for a new ad. Whatever it was, I was sure it was a masterpiece. I waited for my accolades and maybe a raise.

Dan sent it back to me and said, very kindly, that it was terrible. He told me all the reasons why it was awful. Then he told me to try again. It was a digital document, but I’m sure he would have put a big red “C+” on it…or worse.

I was shocked. Insulted. Hurt. Defensive. I was sure he was crazy. I considered looking for another job, someplace where my talents would be appreciated.

But instead, I decided to give it one more try. So I rewrote the piece based on Dan’s comments, and you know what? That time it worked. It worked really well. Even I had to admit it was vastly better than my first attempt.

“Great job!” Dan said to me. “I knew you could do it!” The clouds cleared, the birds sang, and all was right in the world again.

I learned a few important lessons that day. Besides learning to put my ego aside, I realized that Dan’s feedback was never meant to crush me or hurt my feelings. It was meant to make me better.

It can be hard to hear from your boss or your colleagues that your work is not up to par, but after eight years at RBS, I’ve gotten better at receiving constructive feedback – and giving it too. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned that being honest is, in actuality, more kind than allowing someone to float along doing mediocre work.To accept mediocrity is actually kind of disrespectful. It’s like saying, “I accept that you are a mediocre person and you are not capable of more.”

Because we respect our colleagues so much, we say the hard things. Sometimes that means bruising someone’s ego. Sometimes it means helping them find a different seat on the bus – or even, a seat on another organization’s bus. And that’s okay too. If we truly want to see each other be successful at work (and at life!), we have to be willing to tell each other the truth… and encourage each other to do better.

I still love gold stars, and I love giving my teammates a high five when it’s warranted. But at RBS, I’ve learned the key to having more of those “high five moments” is to help each other reach for excellence, and to expect exceptional performance – every single day.