When transformation occurs it should be acknowledged. We all believe we are good people. When that belief has been challenged and we have walked the difficult road of attempting to match reality with our beliefs, we deserve to hear about that as clearly as we heard about our flaws. This does not mean rewarding new behavior, which is somewhat manipulative and demeaning, but honoring it as a real achievement, a victory we can all appreciate. Nor does this mean validating transformation at the first sign of improvement, because premature validation can demotivate the leader. It does mean validating sustained change:
“I’d like you to know how consistently I see you doing _______ .”
“I want you to know I no longer experience _________ in our relationship and what a difference that has made.”
“In the last few months, I’ve felt better than ever about how we work together.”
“I’ve heard a lot of admiration from the field about how you ________ .”
“In my estimation, the results we are now achieving are due in no small part to the change you’ve made in ________ .”
“My hat’s off to you. It took a lot of courage to do what you did.”
While we may achieve many victories in our lives, genuine transformation is often the hardest and most precious. When we are close to a leader who has been transformed we should bear witness to that transformation, both to the leader and to the world. Validation helps strengthen the fibers of new patterns so they wear well through the fraying challenges that lie ahead.