One of the first lessons that John Maxwell taught me, many years ago, was the “30-Second Rule”.
One night around a dinner table with several other colleagues, John leaned over to me and said, “Mark, if you really want to win with people, say something encouraging within the first thirty seconds of every conversation.”
I’ve never seen anyone live this out as well as John. John has practiced the 30-Second Rule for so long now that it has almost become innate—and it’s absolutely brilliant to watch! He’s so intentional and authentic with his words that everyone feels like he’s greeting them uniquely.
The idea is so powerful because it changes the focus of a new conversation. When most people meet others, they search for ways to make themselves look good. The key to the 30-Second Rule is to reverse it. Instead of looking for ways to elevate yourself, look for ways to publically encourage others.
This habit isn’t complicated, but it does take practice and preparation. Before I step into a room with other people, I intentionally take time to think about how I can encourage them. This discipline has helped my encouragements connect in a more meaningful way.
Psychologist Henry H. Goddard conducted a fascinating study about the effects of encouragement on energy levels in children. It revealed that when children were given a word of encouragement, their energy levels immediately surged. But when the same children were criticized or discouraged, their physical energy immediately declined.
You’ve probably experienced similar effects in your interactions with others. Doesn’t it give you a burst of energy when someone encourages you? And then do you experience the opposite effect with words of discouragement?
John Maxwell says, “Those who add to us, draw us to them. Those who subtract, cause us to withdraw.” That’s because words carry great power. Never underestimate the power of motivation—it’s often the fuel you need to accomplish what you should accomplish.
Have you ever been around a leader known for adding value to people? When that leader walks in the room, everyone lights up! That type of leader creates an environment where people are truly able to thrive. I’ve observed that this starts with developing a practice of encouraging those around you, both consistently and quickly.
So, I want to challenge you to apply the 30-Second Rule to your leadership.
Ask yourself this question: What encouraging thing can I say to each person I see today?
And then look for a chance to bring a word of encouragement within the first thirty seconds of each interaction.
It may seem too simple; but I assure you—if you apply this—it will transform every environment that you lead. And make you a leader others are happy to follow.