Despite my best efforts, sales were off and I was perilously close to being fired.

Sometime in the early 1980’s, my new job began with such promise. I moved the family from Richmond to Virginia Beach for what seemed to be the opportunity of a lifetime. I was in charge of a thriving metropolitan automobile dealership. At first, everything seemed fine. But it wasn’t long before old problems reappeared and sales began to drop. Yet, I was working harder than ever. What was wrong?


My boss, would have been justified in finding someone else to run the dealership but instead chose to have a meeting with me. Our talk became one of those turning points that changed my philosophy of leadership and helped me understand the importance of becoming a tough encourager.


At one point, he said: “I notice you are usually on the sales floor talking to customers.”


“Yes, sir.” I answered, thinking he would be pleased. “I try to meet everyone personally.”


He paused for a moment and then said: “Why do I pay the salaries of twelve sales people when you are doing all of the work? Unless something changes, I will either have to fire all of them or I’m going to have to fire you!”


What could I say? The boss discovered my critical weakness. By insisting on doing most of the selling I was limiting our sales efforts to my capabilities and my energy. One individual no matter how talented can only do so much. However, one person leading a team can accomplish miracles! A critical point that is true in business, family relationships, sports, churches and especially our walk with God.


The writer of Hebrews sums up the whole purpose of being in God’s church: Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)


In other words, our calling as Christians is to hold tightly to our faith and encourage others to outbursts of love and good deeds! But how do we do that?


Encouragement is more than merely giving a compliment. To encourage means: “To inspire with courage, hope or resolution.” What I received from my boss was definitely not a compliment but what he said inspired me with courage, hope and resolution. I call it tough encouragement. I left his office that day determined to be a team builder and a tough encourager. A valuable lesson I would never forget.


As a manager, I learned to spend more time encouraging sales people to treat people honestly and fairly. I still enjoyed meeting the customers, but selling became a team effort utilizing the best of all our gifts and talents for the good of the business. Being an encourager also helped me stay employed.


As a church leader, it is still important for me to foster teamwork and offer tough encouragement. Like most organizations, churches have plenty of hard workers, but need more people who are willing to encourage others to outbursts of love and good deeds. Only then will we begin to act as a team filled with the power of God’s Holy Spirit.


This is important: We are all called to be tough encouragers.


I still enjoy working with others, but my ministry has become a team effort utilizing the best of many gifts and talents for God. Paul said it clearly: “If your gift is to encourage others, do it!” (Romans 12:8)


By the way, being a tough encourager still helps me stay employed.


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