In my last post I told the story of Birch Foracker, a top executive for New York Bell Telephone Company. Foracker amplified one of the great traits of all outstanding leaders—he expressed appreciation to his employees for all the positive ways they contributed to the success of the telephone company.
Let me tell you about another man who was a master of encouragement. Dr. Ira North was the preacher for the Madison Church of Christ for more than 30 years. At his death, Madison was the largest congregation among Churches of Christ in the world, with over 6,000 members. Gary Beauchamp tells of an occasion when he visited Dr. North at his Madison church office. As Dr. North led Gary on a tour of the church facilities, he introduced his guest to every secretary and support person on staff. Dr. North not only gave Gary the names of each of those people, but also boasted on the tremendous contributions each one made to the mission of the Madison church. At one point, the two men were in the bowels of the building, crawling under steam pipes, just so Dr. North could introduce Gary to a maintenance man who was servicing the boiler. Dr. North bragged on that man’s abilities and contributions as if he were the most important individual in the congregation.
Anyone who knew Ira North knows that his words of appreciation were completely authentic. There was no pretense and no motivation to manipulate the people he thanked. Dr. North was genuinely grateful for what each and every member of the Madison church did to further the work of the church. And he made sure they knew it. He thanked them from the pulpit. He praised them in the church bulletin. He expressed it in personal letters. He bragged on them wherever he spoke around the nation. And, most importantly, he told them face to face.
Not a bad model, wouldn’t you agree?!