The Power of Encouragement

Have you ever been in a situation when someone offered you a word of encouragement or praise?

How did it make you feel?

Probably great. It probably gave you a renewed sense of “I can do this” or “Yes, I AM on track” or “I’m glad somebody is paying attention”.

Granted, not every person has the personality type that craves this kind of feedback, but I’d bet that more people than not really get a charge out of being recognized – even if it’s just a small note, email or verbal compliment.

I believe that encouragement and recognition is just as impactful, if not more so, than monetary rewards.

Twenty years ago I worked for Imagymnation Gymnastics Center. There were fifteen employees – not a huge company, but not a one man show either. Twenty years later, I can tell you the one thing that I remember more than anything…I can remember it like it was yesterday.


Steve, the owner of the gym, established a system of encouragement that took a previously negative term and made it into one that employees craved.


What were “pink slips” at the gym? They were ¼ sheets of pink paper that had pre-printed “I caught you doing something right…” then had several blank lines.

We were encouraged to look for our fellow employees’ small acts of greatness and acknowledge it using a pink slip. Staff members would walk into the staff room and see a “pink slip” on their locker…and would get a giant smile on their face and race to see what it said.

In this case, it wasn’t just up to the owner or management to recognize staff – it was up to everyone to encourage one another and recognize when they saw something great. That was one of the most amazing work environments I had ever witnessed. So much positivity, it was awesome. Now, the fact that it was a kids’ establishment filled with fun colors, learning and encouragement of kids all tied into it, but I’ve seen places like that before where the employees there are clearly just collecting a check. It was the exact opposite there.

As I reminisce about that time in my life, I find it interesting that one of the more memorable parts for me was what happened around Christmas. If a company is going to give a bonus of some type, it’s fairly common for that to be around Christmas time or at the end of the year. At the gym, I remember we did receive monetary bonuses – but for the life of me, I can’t remember the dollar amount or what I bought with the money.

Do you know what I remember?

I remember the LONG hand written card Steve wrote me. It was so personalized - my contributions, my professional growth and appreciation for me and what I brought to the organization. And I know he did the same for every single person who worked there. I look back and can only imagine how incredibly time consuming that must have been…yet I am sitting here TWENTY YEARS LATER, remembering how I treasured every card I ever received during my tenure there.

I still stay in contact with Steve (thanks to Facebook) and I’m so grateful for the time I spent under his leadership, transitioning from teenager to young adult, and developing my own style of leadership.

When you see an opportunity to “catch someone doing something right”, remember this story…and take a moment to acknowledge that person.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if the whole world gave a new kind of pink slip? Why, yes…yes, it would!


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