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  • Tracy Hooper

Be an "Encourager in Chief"

Happy New Year.

If you’re looking for a way to feel better about the year ahead, and most of us need that after 2020 & 2021, consider becoming an “encourager in chief” …by focusing on supporting someone else. You know that good feeling you get when you genuinely encourage another person. And it makes them feel great, too!

I hadn’t heard the expression, “encourager in chief”, until Stephen Sondheim died in November of 2021 at 91 years old.

There was a gorgeous tribute to him in the New York Times including an article by Laura Collins-Hughes. She wrote, “The American stage lost not only a composer and lyricist nonpareil, but also its long-time encourager in chief.’”

Sondheim was beloved as a mentor, a teacher, and audience regular. He was also a prolific note writer. Collins-Hughes wrote, “After Sondheim died, Twitter was flooded with images of them. Notes to students and professionals and fans, they were thoughtful and specific, full of gratitude and good wishes, each on letterhead, each with the elegant, sloping signature that’s familiar from the Stephen Sondheim Theater marquee.”

Here’s an example:

"March 26, 2015

Dear Ben Scheuer –

As you may have been told, I was knocked out by your show. Thank you for a wonderful evening.

Stephen Sondheim”

Imagine the thrill for that young song writer!

Sondheim didn’t write letters to make himself feel better, he did it to nurture and encourage generations of theater makers to keep going -- to keep the art form of musical theater alive for all of us.

As a leader, as a colleague, you can be as generous and encouraging as Stephen Sondheim. Imagine the surprise and delight of your teammates or a client when they receive a generous, handwritten note from you — on your letterhead!

This small gesture can make someone else feel valued, boost their confidence, and remind them and that they matter. Plus, it might make you feel better in 2022!

Thanks for watching and all the best to you this year.

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