Back in the day (ha, whenever that was!) I used to say that encouragement wasn't one of my spiritual gifts. I used it as an excuse to let moments of offering encouragement slip past unacknowledged. Unbeknownst to the younger me, encouraging others is an integral part of being a leader.
So if encouraging others doesn't come naturally to you, try these pointers.
1. Stock up on blank cards and keep them in several handy places (your office, your home, your purse, your glove box). If someone crosses your mind, take two minutes right then and there to jot a quick note. Don't forget to deliver it or drop it in the mail (the longer you put it off, the more likely you are to forget).
2. Connect on Facebook. Those of us who use Facebook are on there virtually every day, and it takes no more than 30 seconds to click on someone's profile and leave a little note on their wall.
3. Make a habit of the "two minute longer" conversation. Too often we pass by one another and breeze through the standard chatter:
Hi, how are you?
Oh good! And you?
I'm good, too. Thanks.
This type of exchange with those who work/volunteer with you is likely to come across as unfeeling and uncaring. And your people want to be cared for! Instead, stop, look the person in the eyes, and genuinely ask a question that directly relates to his or her life (for example, if you know the family was away at a soccer tournament last weekend, ask how the team did).
4. Pray for them! While others may never know you've been praying, the very act of lifting them and their needs up to God grows a heart connection between you. Praying for others helps you to be more concerned with their needs, keeps them in your mind, and causes you to feel a deeper love for them.
5. Be intentional with your words. When you speak of the person, speak only good - it will get back to her. When you speak to the person, express appreciation for who he is and what he does.
If you are a leader in any capacity, learning to encourage those you lead is key. This is particularly true for volunteers (but really, even paid staff need to feel valued and appreciated). It took a two long, discouraging years for me to realize that encouragement was a skill I needed to develop in order to succeed as a leader. In my first couple years of leading women's ministry, we underwent numerous team member changes. Once I began intentionally encouraging my team, there was an almost instantaneous shift - for the next four years, we had virtually no volunteers step down! Possible correlation? I think so.