Encouragement, Flattery and Trusting Teams: Part 1 Encouragement vs. Flattery Defined

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This is part one of three blog posts that explore the multifaceted role of authentic encouragement in building trust within teams.

From nurturing authenticity and positive communication to empowering team members and resolving conflicts constructively, authentic encouragement is a powerful tool for creating cohesive and trusting teams.


As leaders, our words carry a particular weight. As Patrick Booth says, "A leader's words can be gold in the pocket or an anchor around the neck." 

So, how do leaders put courage into our people and avoid the thin ice of flattery? Let's get some definitions laid out.


In episode 719 of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper tackles this question from a listener and lays out several helpful pieces of advice.

First, let's look at flattery, Pastor John says this: 


"I think the key difference between good praise and bad flattery is this: Flattery is bad because it’s calculated. It is given with a view to obtaining some advantage (Jude 16). Flattery may be true, or it may be not true. That is not the issue. You may be saying something true about somebody and still be flattering. The issue is whether it is calculated to achieve some purpose that is not rooted in the authentic, spontaneous delight that we take in the virtue we are praising."

(I had to listen to the episode a few times to grasp what was being said. If you need to re-read this, you’re normal)


He goes on to say, "In other words, the key mark of genuine, non-flattering praise is that it’s the overflow of authentic delight in what we are observing about the other person.
It is the opposite of calculation. It is spontaneous. C.S. Lewis, in one of my favorite quotes, says, “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not only expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation” (Reflections on the Psalms, 111)."

Let’s recap.


Flattery might be true or untrue, but the motive is to gain something by complimenting.

Flattery is terrible because it’s calculated and manipulative. Disingenuous.


Flip it.


Authentic praise is often spontaneous and comes from the overflow of what we’re experiencing.

Authentic praise is good because it builds up and builds into another person.

Makes Sense GIFs | Tenor

How does this type of encouragement build trusting teams?

1. Authenticity Builds Trust:
When team members are authentic in their interactions, it creates an environment where everyone feels safe to be themselves. This authenticity fosters trust because individuals know they can rely on each other's honesty and sincerity.


When demonstrated by the authority figure, it brings your mission statement to life. Feedback is given for the good of the team, not just to build ones own social status.


2. Genuine Appreciation Strengthens Bonds:
Expressing genuine appreciation for specific contributions or efforts reinforces the idea that team members are valued. This recognition strengthens the bonds among team members, contributing to a sense of trust and respect.


We must say simple words and phrases like, “Thank you,” “Great job,” or “I noticed how you took care of that customer/donor/issue.”


Word of caution: Saying to a rep, “Thank you for contributing your $1.50 in production last month!” doesn’t build confidence when the team goal was $1 million. They know they fell short. You know they fell short. Remember, authenticity should precede praise. 


3. Open Communication Thrives:
Authentic encouragement encourages open and transparent communication. Team members are more likely to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas when they trust their contributions will be considered genuinely.

Key question: When was the last time you, as a leader, demonstrated open and transparent communication?


4. Empowerment Drives Accountability:
Authentic encouragement acknowledges the agency and impact of team members. This empowerment leads to a sense of ownership and accountability, as individuals are trusted to make decisions and take initiative.


Empowerment indicates the dissemination of decision-making. Delegating. AKA, stop being a control freak.


5. Conflict Resolution Becomes Constructive:
In teams built on trust, conflicts can be addressed openly and constructively. Team members know that disagreements will be approached with respect and a genuine desire to find solutions, further solidifying trust.


Healthy teams have healthy conflict.


Authentic encouragement is a cornerstone in the foundation of trusting teams. It cultivates authenticity, open communication, mutual support, and empowerment, all of which contribute to a team's ability to work harmoniously and achieve its goals.


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