Pair your encouragement with a specific explanation of what’s behind it


Why do it?


It takes only a minute to flesh out your encouragement beyond “You’ve got this!” or “This shouldn’t be too hard.” And doing so makes your comment much more meaningful — and believable — for your direct report. Explaining why you have confidence in them can make the difference between your direct report thinking Wow, you really don’t understand what I do or how hard it can be and feeling reassured.

How do it?


1. Before expressing your encouragement, think of a specific reason why you feel confident in your direct report.

Your message will come across as more authentic if you share a detailed — rather than generic — reason. Consider examples of similar past performance and skills that indicate the person has the potential to perform well. For example:

  • Poor: Jaime is good with people.
  • Better: In last month’s conference presentation, Jaime answered tough audience questions well. I was impressed by his poise and clarity — and I think those skills will translate to this difficult client situation.

2. Also, identify what may be new or challenging about the work to be done.

Even if a task sounds easy to you, it may not be to your direct report. Acknowledging what’s hard will help them see that you understand what goes into their work. For example:

  • Jaime is likely to face pushback from the client when he presents ideas, especially ones that run counter to the way the client has worked in the past.

3. Share your encouragement — and the thinking behind it — with your direct report.

Put the pieces together by assuring your direct report that they can handle the situation, recognizing that the work is hard, and explaining what gives you confidence in them.

For example: “I’m confident you’ll be able to handle this challenging client. They tend to push back on new ideas. But I’ve seen you handle tough questions with poise and clarity before, like from the audience at your conference presentation last month. And I know you’ll be able to use those skills to keep the client focused and help them find the best solution.”

4. Offer support, if needed, as your direct report completes the work.

If your direct report lacks experience or confidence, they may need more than your encouragement along the way. As needed, reassure them that you’re there to help.

For example: “You have the expertise to handle any objections that come up. But if it would help, I’m happy to talk through anything or role-play as the client during a practice run.