Leadership is taking people places they wouldn’t have gone to by themselves.

Helping someone build self-confidence is one of the most meaningful things you can do. You can do this in two simple ways, through affirmation and encouragement.


Affirmation is letting someone know they did something well. You can affirm others for almost anything:

  • A child who put in strong effort for a homework assignment.
  • A direct report who handled a difficult customer with skill and tact.
  • A co-worker who gave a clear, concise and compelling presentation.

When you give someone specific positive feedback, you are affirming them. You actually begin a positive upward spiral. Here's how it works, someone does something well, you affirm them. Because you affirm them, they have increased confidence and perform at a higher level. And the spiral continues.

Affirmation looks at the past and says, "You did it." The word affirmation literally means 'to make firm.' When you affirm someone, you will likely see that behavior continue. 


Encouragement is a bit different. Encouragement lets someone know that you believe in them. When you give encouragement, you are helping others get out of their comfort zone and grow closer to their potential. Encouragement looks like this:

  • "I think you should apply for that management position."
  • "If you want to write a book, I think you should go for it!"
  • "You are a good communicator, I would like you to volunteer to make a presentation in front of the Board."

The word encouragement literally means 'to give courage.' While affirmation looks at the past, encouragement points toward the future and says "you can do it!"

Both affirmation and encouragement take very little effort on your part. Yet it makes a huge difference. Think of affirmation and encouragement as tiny seeds that you plant in the lives of others. And think what eventually happens to seeds, often they grow big, strong and bear fruit.

We are purpose-driven creatures. We all desire to have meaning beyond ourselves. Through affirmation and encouragement, you know you are making a difference in the lives of others. Be known as someone who gives the gift of confidence through affirmation and encouragement.