The 7 Principles for Inspiring Employees
By Terry Barber*
If someone asked you for a good synonym for inspiration, what would you say? Some might answer that stimulation is a good substitute. Others might choose influence or encouragement. But by and large, when people think of inspiration, the word that immediately comes to mind is motivation.
But are motivation and inspiration really the same? And from a leadership standpoint, which is better? As leaders, we all want certain things from those who report to us. So do we motivate them to action, or do we inspire them?
Employers are great at motivation, aren’t they? Well, depends on who you ask. Sometimes their methods are less than inspiring: they motivate, all right, but through manipulation or threats. “If you don’t meet this goal . . .” Even if an organisation does achieve some results this way, they will be short-lived again, because people haven’t been inspired.
So, what kinds of actions make the difference between inspiring someone and motivating him or her? And what will that mean to you, as a team leader, department head, or CEO?
Leaders who genuinely inspire others do so by tapping into people’s dreams then extracting the best from them. This is what is called the “inspiration factor.” And whether these leaders just have a knack for inspiring those around them, or they have developed the skill through training or trial and error, the inspiration factor produces more positive transformations than any other leadership trait.
Here are seven principles for inspiring your employees that you can take action on today. Implement one of these principles and make a difference. Implement all seven and change the culture you live and work in.
1. Authenticity – get out of the image management business for yourself and your company. Share with the people in your organisation where you are weak. Verbally express just how much you need them. Let them know that you know your limitations. Invite them to partner with you to get through these difficult times.
2. Connect with Other’s Dreams – use these difficult times to uncover the latent dreams and ambitions of your key talent. Tell them you are more committed than ever to helping them get to where they want to go. Be creative in aligning their tasks for today with their dreams for tomorrow.
3. See in Others the Abilities They Don’t See in Themselves – take time to be observant. Quit the craziness long enough to notice the talent in those around you. This even works if you are trying to manage up. This principle works best by breaking it down into three steps, notice, name, and nurture. After you have noticed a talent or strength in a person, let them know you noticed it and be specific about what you noticed. Don’t just say "I noticed you are a hard worker." Rather, "I notice you care very deeply about making sure the details are in order or I notice you are very articulate on that subject." Look for ways to bring that talent out by providing opportunities and training to support that particular talent.
4. Speak and live with credibility – I also refer to this principle as leading with moral authority. It does not mean much for you to say "let’s keep looking for the opportunity ahead" while living in fear and operating with a scarsity mentality.
5. Inspire With Great Stories – this is the principle of overhearing. This is not to be confused with the art of storytelling. The emphasis here is looking and telling stories that have a lesson. What can you learn from the story of a mountain climber? What can you glean from the story of one who has gone from rags to riches or better yet, from riches to rags? Pull your team together today and use story to inspire.
6. Help People to Live on Purpose – remind them that what happens at work is only a portion of their life. As important as that portion is, it is not all that there is to life. Help people write down a vision statement for their life first and then for their job. If work can be a conduit towards that vision for life, great!
7. Create a Culture of Inspiration – following the example of John Wooden, UCLA’s iconic coach, become teachers committed to excellence and character development. Chasing numbers and making decisions by looking only at the "bottom line" causes us to be reactive and impulsive.
Focusing on raising the inspiration factor through developing people yields incredible value for stakeholders, customers, and employees alike. Raising the inspiration factor one principle at a time will change the culture of your organisation. A company with a high inspiration factor attracts and keeps good talent and its employees forge long -term profitable relationships with customers.
* Terry Barber is an inspirational speaker, corporate trainer and founder of Inspiration Blvd