Pesky Kudzu

One question haunting every author is: “Will my book title capture both the attention of the reader and the central thought of the book?” Never has this question held as much power over me as did with my first book, The Art of Killing Kudzu. My frustration was rooted in the concern that only people from the South would know the meaning of kudzu. I stopped my fretting when I received a call from Saudia Arabia. The caller was inviting me to present for the Arabian Human Resources Conference. He specifically requested The Art of Killing Kudzu.

Kudzu is bad stuff. It grows wild, and chokes out good stuff. Kudzu is a cantankerous vine that invades every parcel of any nearby turf, including the plot of terra firma that held the Silver Queen Corn in my garden. Kudzu is also the name that I ascribe to negativity. The most comfortable habitat for kudzu is in the mind and between people.

The kudzu that I want to discuss aggravates the spirit, stifles initiative, and births both irritability and the tendency to quit before you quit. Remarkably, there is a chemical that can kill this Kudzu. This kudzu-killing chemical is not motivation. (Ultimately, the most helpful thing that you can do is create a motivational environment where others are inspired to push their own motivational buttons.) The kudzu-killing chemical is quite simply encouragement.

Many will argue that we do not encourage others at the point of their accomplishments or strengths. Many will suggest that we are gifted at catching people doing poorly or pointing out one's mistakes, and inept at catching them doing well. This is not a matter of “catching” or “non-catching.” The issue is this: Many “catch” others doing poorly and then translate their feelings into expression and behavior when they are disappointed or angry. However, when they catch others doing well, they fail or refuse to translate their feelings into expressions of encouragement. Why does this happen?

Something holds power over us! That something is Assumption! Assumption does not seem to have as much power at the point of confrontation as it does at the point of affirmation.

You will never be as effective in your encouragement--practice as long as you allow assumption to hold power over you. Practice assumption-awareness! Practice assumption-avoidance! Do not assume that someone knows what you know, that someone knows what you wish they knew, or that someone knows how you feel when you catch them doing well. The adhesive that will bind much of these leadership online class segments to each other is the poisonous nature of assumption.

Assumption is not the only hurdle standing in encouragement's way. When you catch someone doing well, do not assume that someone knows how you were impacted by their accomplishment. Learn to express yourself in specific encouraging terms. Avoid generalization! Do not merely say, “Thank you”; try saying, “I appreciate you because...” Do not merely say, “Good job”; state, “You did a good job because...” Do not merely say, “I enjoyed that”; say, “I found that meaningful because...”

Help kill some Kudzu! Kudzu is all around us. Catch those you seek to encourage with pleasant surprises. Overcome your own assumptions. Celebrate and utilize specificity when you seek to catch others by surprise. Encourage them at the point of their strengths, their best efforts and their accomplishments.

Kudzu equals bad stuff! Kudzu grows within organizations and individuals. Good stuff equals assumption-awareness, assumption-avoidance, and specificity. These equal encouragement. Leaders, remember “Encouragement can kill this pesky kudzu—all over the world!”

Posted on March 11, 2016 .