Encouragement Makes All the Difference

I’m convinced that encouragement is at the heart of true leadership and wise management. The simplest words can empower people to achieve incredible things. I’ve personally experienced this.

In 1999, I was senior vice president of programmes for Prison Fellowship United States (PF USA), responsible for reaching prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families with the Gospel. One of our most important programmes, Angel Tree®, partnered with local churches so children of prisoners would receive a Christmas gift in the name of their imprisoned parent. Angel Tree® was at the top of my to-do list because at that time, our outreach had stalled and was losing ground. Part of my job was to re-engineer Angel Tree® and help it grow.

And I had every reason to be confident in accomplishing this. A few years before, I had built and sold a successful lock company, and served six productive years as executive director of Prison Fellowship International. Yet, my re-engineering ideas for Angel Tree® ran against realities—I was told to rethink my plans, that it would be difficult to implement these new ideas in the field, to put on the brakes, and that there simply wasn’t enough money to do what our team thought needed to be done to rebuild Angel Tree®. Insecurity became an uninvited guest and self-doubt began to steer my course. I began to second-guess myself.

But one person made all the difference. For one hour a week, I met with the most significant person I’ve encountered in my career. When I first met Tom Pratt, then president of PF USA, he looked me straight in the eye. He shook my hand and I felt the iron grip of integrity. “Frank,” he said, “I’ve heard all about you. Sit down. Let’s talk.”

Have you ever met someone who put aside every distraction and gave you total attention? That was Tom. His interest in my work and eagerness to learn about my goals and challenges made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. His genuine concern helped me to relax and open up. Tom was an incredible listener and encourager. He’d tell me, “Frank, we can do this. Don’t be afraid to take risks. God is with us. Believe it. The Lord has placed you here for a reason. He’s given you tremendous abilities.”

Tom’s words gave me new confidence, motivation, and drive. This leader reminded me each week of the work the Lord had put before Prison Fellowship, and that I was a part of this unfolding plan. Tom’s encouragement moved me to take the calculated risks I needed to in order to move forward. Within a year, Angel Tree® improved in quality and quantity, and more children of inmates received gifts and the life-changing message that they could know the Father’s love in Christ.

Surely, there are people on your team who need the encouraging words that will restore their confidence and renew their passion for the Lord. We can do no less for the people in our organisations whom the Lord has called us to serve, empower, and encourage.

How will you encourage your team today?

Article originally published September 1, 2015, in Prison Fellowship International’s PFI RoundTable.

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