Have you thought about it lately? 

Have you thought about the power of one word of encouragement, of one aptly timed moment of coaching or pausing one brief minute to give time to someone who needs help.

What is the power of just one leader? 

The power of one is not just what you do, but it can be who you are – one coach or one mentor. Click To Tweet

For me, it was the power of one teacher.  As a student in the fourth grade, Mrs. Page was my science teacher, and for whatever reason, she took a special interest in me.  The funny thing is that at the time, it did not feel like a special interest.  That year, I worked especially hard on my science project.  I was so excited to turn it in, knowing that my favorite teacher was likely to give me an “A.”  When I received my grade, I was surprised to receive a “B,” maybe the first one I had ever received since starting school.

Heartbroken, I stayed after to school to get an explanation from my favorite teacher.  Maybe she would change her mind when I told her how hard I had worked.  She didn’t change my grade, but instead gently said, “I know you can do better.”    She was right – I could and I did, because someone believed I could.

A few years later, another teacher would encourage me in a different way and she too would make a big difference.  Mrs. Bright, my high school English teacher, wrote in my ninth grade yearbook, “I want an autographed copy of your first book.”  When my first book was published in November 2015, I presented Mrs. Bright a copy of the book that was a result of her inspiration over 3 decades earlier.  She believed in me and helped me to believe in myself.

Years later, I would work for a leader who allowed me to help make significant decisions in his organization.  Even when I was young and relatively inexperienced, Truett Cathy, gave me the opportunity to make the decisions he said were most important – people decisions. The more confidence he placed in me, the more responsibility I felt to make sure I met his expectations and made good decisions.

So, what is it that we can learn from these teachers and mentors about how to coach and encourage others?  What is the power of one aptly spoken encouragement from one person who made a difference?  How can any of us follow their example?

People who understand the power of their words and actions as leaders:

  1. Recognize greatness that others miss

    People who identify the strengths in others and help individuals to maximize them open up previously unknown possibilities.  There is nothing quite as motivating as a strength, talent or gift being recognized.  As a child, I took dancing lessons for eight years.  I was really never very good at it.  However, I had a basketball coach that helped me discover that I had athletic skills and a competitive spirit.  She taught me to leverage my greatest strengths, the gifts she saw in me.

  1. Do not accept others giving less than their best

    My former boss, Truett Cathy, loved to tell a story about President Jimmy Carter and Admiral Hyman Rickover.  Upon President Carter’s graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy, Admiral Rickover asked Carter if he had done his very best as a student at the Naval Academy.  Carter replied, “not at all times.”  Admiral Rickover answered with. “Why not?” and left Carter in the room to think about it.  Great leaders call us out to give our best at all times.

  1. Allow mistakes and don’t make failure fatal

    After a few months at Chick-fil-A, I was given an assignment to produce a recruiting brochure.  I had confidence that I could do this well since I had been a journalism major in college and had previously been a print coordinator at an advertising firm.  Perhaps, I had too much confidence.  When the piece returned from the printer, my boss showed me my error.  I misspelled the word, “restaurant.”  After he pointed out my mistake, he never mentioned it again.  He did not have to and I never made that mistake again.

  1. Cast a vision of a successful future

    Nothing is quite as motivating as a teacher who can help a student visualize a bright future, or a coach who can demonstrate to a player how his contribution can lead the team to victory or a mentor that can help a young mentee embrace her potential with confidence.  People are motivated by knowing others believe they can achieve goals and make a difference.  Gifted leaders are able to create a path to an unknown future and bring others along.

  1. Offer opportunities for real responsibility

    Leaders who provide team members with opportunities for real responsibility reap the reward of not only achieving the desired results but of also garnering loyalty of the team member.  People don’t learn by being protected from consequences.  Players don’t improve sitting on the bench not playing in the game.  I can remember watching one of my son’s baseball games in which the third baseman was really struggling.  Balls were going through his legs and passing right by his outreached hands.  He anticipated to the left and the ball went flying by to the right.  At the end of an inning, I was sure the coach would take him out of the game.  He didn’t.  In fact, the kid played the entire game at third base.  By the end of the game, the player knew his coach trusted him and he played better because of it.

So what will you do today to be the power of one?  Who will you encourage, believe in and challenge?  In what ways will you choose to be the power of one?  Someone has the ability to be more and do more, but they need you to help them.  They need you to be the power of one.