successTwenty-eight eyes looked at me skeptically. They were convinced the task I had outlined for their strategy session was beyond their reach. “Just too hard,” they explained. “I’m not that creative,” insisted another.

My own confidence crumbled a bit. The exercise had worked in other contexts, but this industry was untried in my experience. What if they were right? Firmly shutting down the doubts of my unconvinced inner voice, I mustered up a smile.

“Of course you can do this! I’ve never seen this approach fail. (A true statement). You’ve totally got this. Now let’s talk about where you’re stuck.”

Still uncertain, a few pairs of eyes softened. I could see the flicker of possibility beginning to take hold. I also knew I needed to diffuse the scene, 14 doubters against one believer were not good odds.

“When I get stuck like this, I often find it useful to take a walk,” I offered. “If anyone wants to take a lap around this beautiful hotel to think, that’s just fine. If you’re ready to bounce your ideas off someone else, it may be helpful to talk it through with your colleague. And, I’ll be over here and would love to talk with anyone one-on-one.”

People began to move. A few took a walk. Others paired up. I held a few consultations, where we explored what they were most afraid of.

When we regrouped, they nailed it. Not just in a hammer and nail sort of way. They nailed it with all the impact of an electric nail gun. In fact, that session was one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen.

5 Ways to Encourage Your Team Toward Success

  1. Let Your Confidence Shine

Be confident in the mission. Be confident in the team. Be confident in the power of discomfort. Don’t articulate your own self-doubt. That’s a morale killer and not a sign of your humility.

  1. Divide and Encourage

It’s easier to stay stuck when you’re surrounded by “stuckness.” You’ll find that team members aren’t necessarily hung up in the same place or for the same reasons. Find a way to separate the naysayers.

  1. Build on Past Success

Ask your team members to recall a time they’ve been successful in a similar situation. Start from a confident place. “I’m sure you’ve done well in comparable situations in the past. Can you tell me about a time … what did you do … what made it successful?”

  1. Be the Bridge to Success

Be available. Listen. Ask provocative questions that lead them to success.

  1. Help Them Identify Their Fears

“What’s the worst thing that could happen here?” I asked one woman.

“I might get emotional,” she confided.

“Okay that’s understandable,” I said matter-of-factly. “Emotional as in a verklempt type of choking up, or a full-on wailing and gnashing of teeth?”

She laughed. “Nah, it won’t be that bad.”

When she shared her story with the team, she wasn’t the one who cried. Message received. Teams need encouragement to take little risks that feel big. Small risks lead to brave steps which lead to bold work, and ultimately create breakthrough results. Encourage them. Please. The world needs more brave doers.

Are you ready to lead your team to take on more challenges?  Take the free leader assessment, and sample Winning Well, A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results—Without Losing Your Soul.

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