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I was browsing in Blackwell’s bookshop at the Wellcome Collection a couple of weeks ago, taking advantage of being early for a meeting with my Business Coach. Such a dangerous thing to do, so many wonderful books! Fortunately I had limited time available, and managed to restrict my purchases to two, ‘Do Story’ by Bobette Buster and ‘Show Your Work!’ by Austin Kleon. I was also tempted by a series of ‘how to draw’ books as presents for children, like ‘How to draw animals’, or ‘How to draw people’, giving step by step instructions. I remember a Rudolph Steiner teacher saying to me years ago that anyone can be taught to draw. As a rule, people who are not naturally artistic, will say if the need arises, “I can’t draw,” or “I’m terrible at drawing,” but as these books demonstrate, anyone can indeed be taught to draw, even if you don’t have a natural talent for it.

We are all naturally talented at something, or a series of things. Even different human behaviours come more naturally to some than others. Some people are better comedians, coming back with witty comments and injecting a level of entertainment into everything they do. Others are great listeners, taking in and absorbing information. These things are strongly influenced by upbringing and what we were taught by our parents. It is the same with Encouragement. People who were raised with praise and urged to believe in themselves, find it comes naturally to them in later life to give praise and recognition to people around them, whether children or adults, family or work colleagues, because their memory, consciously or not, provides them with the necessary language and associated delivery, as well as simply being at ease with the giving of compliments. Conversely, people who have received little Encouragement in their lives, or who may even have been actively discouraged, will find it very difficult to dish out praise and appreciation, from knowing what language to use, to simply being comfortable delivering it.

However, as with drawing, The Art of Encouragement can be learnt, and with practice, will also come naturally, become habitual. Upskilling managers, or any type of supervisor, to be skilled Encouragers can transform a working environment, inevitably raises confidence and enthusiasm, both for the deliverer and the recipient, and can do nothing but good for any organisation. As my grandmother used to say, “A little bit of praise goes a very long way.”