‘It is always much more difficult to sing when the audience has turned its back.’ (Calvin Miller)
Early in my career, I worked for an over-zealous manager who would sit at the front while I was speaking at events; looking impatient, rolling her hands and tapping her watch. Perhaps she was worrying, unnecessarily, whether I would keep to time. I imagine she thought she was being helpful. I learned then that a look of disapproval or distrust is sometimes all it takes to sap a person’s confidence or to ruin their performance. An Australian pop group reflected a similar feeling and impact in its half-pleading song lyric, ‘I can't do well when I think you're going to leave me, even though I try’. (Empire of the Sun)
What a stark contrast a word of encouragement can be. Some years later, I was invited to speak at a prestigious international conference. I had grown in confidence, yet there was something about this event that evoked all kinds of anxieties within me. As I sat alone in the VIP lounge beforehand, I could see my hand trembling uncontrollably as I tried hard to hold a hot drink. When I stepped nervously into the auditorium and onto its expansive, spot-lit stage, I could see smartly-dressed delegates being ushered into the room and handed very professional-looking folders as they looked to find a seat.
My legs felt like jelly, so I sat down on the steps beside the podium and took deep breaths to try to relax myself. At that moment, a tiny black woman walked directly up to me and smiled brightly. She announced enthusiastically that she has travelled all the way from the Solomon Islands to be here, and was surprised and delighted to read in the brochure that I too was a ‘follower of Jesus’. I thanked her warmly for introducing herself. Her face shone like an angel. ‘I will be sitting in the centre of the room’, she said, ‘and praying for you continually!’ My knees found strength. The speech went well.
When have you felt encouraged at work? How did affect your performance?
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