HOUSTON — JM: Hi Thomas, what are we discussing today?

TF: The power of encouragement. The reason why I wanted to highlight it today is that most people don’t realize that when you encourage, you can’t help but be encouraged yourself.

JM: So encouragement goes both ways, it helps the giver along with the receiver…

TF: Precisely.

JM: Now I know you are big on quotes. Do you have a favorite quote when it comes to encouragement?

TF: Yes, I do. It is a Rosalynn Carter quote. “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to go.”

JM: So encourages push you at times?

TF: Yes, absolutely.

JM: Who has encouraged you during your life to get to you the point where you at today?

TF: Many people including Bill McDermott, Nick Tzitzon, David Brooks, Nassir Ghamei, and various teachers from high school and college.

JM: Tell us when you were encouraged the most in your life.

TF: It was approximately 3 years ago at Peachtree Presbyterian Church. I got to meet David Brooks who has written several New York Times best-selling books. I got to meet him because I had a classmate from Westminster who took a class of his at Yale. She ended up working on both The Road to Character and The Second Mountain. I only talked with him for a few minutes but he did something most people don’t do: he took me seriously. As we were leaving, he told me to “remember, that as a writer, you get to say what you think.” At the time, I was wondering why someone of his stature would say that to me, but about a year later, I realized that he was only trying to encourage me. Like the Rosalynn Carter quote, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to go.”

JM: Why do you think people have trouble encouraging others?

TF: Honestly, I think they look at it as weak. It’s almost as though you’re a groupie or a member of their fan club. But Thad Persons, who holds one of the most powerful positions at Westminster, my high school, always signed his letters, Your #1 fan.

JM: Why do you think he would sign his letters that way?

TF: To encourage me.

JM: What must someone be in order to be an encourager?

TF: They have to be secure with themselves and empathetic. Over the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to see firsthand how being an encouraging person can lead to success in Bill McDermott. I always see him on LinkedIn encouraging his employees at ServiceNow.

JM: Wait, he has a LinkedIn? I thought most CEOs don’t have one because they’re too busy running their company

TF: Bill McDermott is different. He is of the persuasion that to lead, he must be on the same level as his employees.

JM: So that’s how he takes people where they ought to go?

TF: Precisely.

JM: Who else has done that for you in your own life?

TF: Nick Tzitzon, who was the SVP of Marketing at SAP under Bill McDermott and who is now the Chief Strategy Officer at ServiceNow. A few years ago, in early January of 2021, he asked me what my goals were for the year. This year, before he reached out to me about what my goals were for the year, I took the initiative to first reach out to him. That’s what great leaders do: they give you a push to first get going, but their ultimate goal is for you to be pushing for yourself. I only email McDermott a few times a year, but text Tzitzon every single day. Following his advice is what has enabled me to have the success I am currently having.