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inspiration

“Bueller? … Bueller? … Bueller?”

Remember Ben Stein as the über-dull economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? He was the quintessence of uninspiring. His students slept with their eyes open while he answered his own questions addressed to no one.

Failure to capture your audience will quickly sour a leader to his or her team. The paycheck is no longer the inspirational force it once was. The uninspiring leader may wonder, “What else do I have to do to get people to work hard if money is not enough?”

It’s a fair question as not every entrepreneur or boss thought anything more would be required of him or her. Unfortunately, more is required; at least if you want to get the most out of the people working for you.

Extrinsic motivation, such as paycheck, bonuses and such only go so far when it comes to motivating people and can, in fact, serve as demotivating forces in certain circumstances.

Influence requires winning the minds and hearts of your audience and thus inspires action. Thus intrinsic motivation, coming from within, is how you truly inspire a workforce.

But how do you motivate intrinsically? How do you ultimately know if you’re inspiring your people?

The first indication would be if this is even a question you’ve ever asked yourself. Do you care if you’re inspiring anyone? If you’ve never been curious, chances are you’re not as inspiring as you could be.

Here is a short list of other signs that you might not be so inspiring:

  • Do people buy into the vision you have created and does it play out in the day-to-day behaviors?
  • Are you happy when you arrive to work?
  • Is the tone of the office upbeat or dead?
  • Is anyone presenting new ideas? Or is it status quo 24/7/365?
  • Is there a high turnover rate?
  • Are you resistant to new ideas? Are others resistant to your ideas?
  • Are your people curious? Are you curious?
  • Do people go above and beyond? Do you?

Leaders Need to Self-examine Their Brand of Creativity

We all have our own personal drivers that inspire us to create, to hop out of bed in the morning. It might be money, charity, art, or collaboration on a project.

Think back to when you last popped out of bed excited. What was it that got you going? What puts a pep in your step? Re-ignite your creative force.

If your own creativity is not burning from within you will not be able to inspire others to tap into their creative potential. A lack of energy and creativity will spread like wildfire in an organization. Never underestimate the power of emotional contagion.

There isn’t a panacea for self-energizing, but exercise, diet, sleep, laughter, and friends are a few typical means to boost your energy levels and get you revved up for what life holds.

Once you are energized, you can then focus on your team: figure out what drives your people. It’s not a leader’s job to be the creative impetus for his or her people, but it is your job to know what excites them.

To bolster your creative force, it’s imperative to cultivate an attitude of resilience. Leaders serve as a beacon of hope and you can easily fail to inspire with incessant negativity and a focus on events you can’t control. Therefore:

  • Focus on events you can control
  • View setbacks as impermanent and as growth opportunities
  • Don’t fall prey to victim mentality
  • Have a positive outlook of the future

Leaders Need to Self-examine their Brand of Curiosity

When we stop being curious about life we stagnate. The uninspiring leader needs to pinpoint when and why he/she stopped being curious. Another way to describe a lack of curiosity is laziness, which is boredom’s best friend. If the leader is bored so will everyone else be.

Boredom, laziness, and a lack of curiosity about what could be build a protective wall around status quo thinking.

A company – and its people – needs to feel like it is moving forward. Nothing gets in the way of momentum like adhering to the status quo out of fear of the unknown and a lack of energy for new ideas. A leader needs to be open to new ideas, ready to travel down unpaved roads for growth potential.

Challenging the status quo is where innovation lives, it is how companies like Apple and Amazon became monolithic. When you feel yourself slipping into fear mode and/or favoring the way it’s always been done (particularly when the way it’s always been done is currently failing) that’s the signal to step outside of your comfort zone. Get curious!

Get a pulse on the level of curiosity in others. Cultivate a free flow of ideas. Just because you’ve been doing something one way since the beginning doesn’t mean it’s the right way.

Leaders Need to Self-examine Their Brand of Connection

Are you moving toward or away from people? Are your people moving toward or away from you (and each other)? Spend time with your ear to the ground rather than in the clouds.

To create an inclusive environment, make an effort to heighten your social awareness. Rather than go through your days on automatic pilot, be aware of how you are communicating and relating to others, what is called having a relational philosophy.

A relational philosophy means thinking of others every time you interact with them, not just some of the time. It requires opening your ears and mind to what is being said to you. It involves using body language that invites rather than discourages. It promotes a team identity over a “me” identity so that everyone is one important piece of the puzzle.

For example, do you listen to others or is your mind elsewhere as people talk to you? Do you look up from your computer when people speak to you? When you are speaking do people seem interested?

It is about promoting empathy, collaboration, creativity, and enthusiasm. It can’t be faked. Building a relational philosophy takes energy, effort, mindfulness, and a genuine interest in the people who work for and around you.

You won’t experience a 180-degree shift in your rapport with others overnight, but day-by-day, with a conscious effort on building relationships you can increase your influence.

Leaders Need to be Conscious

The ability to inspire should be a top priority for a leader. Hire a coach to work on the areas of your personality that need improvement. Everyone is a work in progress. We are all weak in some area and the best leaders have all sought counsel at one time or another.

I highly recommend a 360˚ evaluation to get a sense of your impact. Assessments show you exactly how others feel about you. It also never hurts to ask a trusted ally or advisor, someone who won’t honey coat the truth.

The key point is to remain open to suggestions and new ideas. Arrogance and fear kill inspiration. A little arrogance is necessary otherwise why would anyone think they should lead in the first place but it’s important to keep arrogance in check.

When you open up your mind to change and growth, not only will your work life improve but so will all other areas of life as well. It’s all connected.

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Dear Employee,

As the leader of this team, I want to empower you to really take charge. I want to empower you to create initiatives and run with the ball. I want to empower you to seek out new revenue sources for us. Lastly, I want to empower you take your position and this company to the next level.

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Dear Boss,

A simple “I want you to do a lot more than you’re already doing” would have sufficed, though it would have been just as equally an unwelcome surprise.

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Why Your Torture Plan Will Surely Backfire

“I want to empower you” is a euphemism for “step it up” and it’s transparent. Actually, it’s translucent: the employee will get the point that you’re telling them to step it up but they also might wonder if they were already supposed to be doing said tasks. It might instill insecurity and the word has a note of embedded insincerity.

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Maybe Try this Instead?

Rather than use the word “empower” just come out and tell your employee what you want them to do. Lay out the specific ways you need them to be “empowered” rather than use that word. Create a joint plan so they walk away with a clear sense of what they’re empowered to do. Save “empower” for 3rd person. You can always tell someone else that you empower your employees if you’re dying to use that word. I want to empower you to use ‘empower’ sparingly.

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Dear Employee,

Went through your spreadsheet and I think this is a great start.

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Dear Boss,

Thank you for those kind, succinct words. I was up late the last couple of nights working on it, hoping to impress you, so knowing I’ve started something great is inspiring. Hopefully you can shed some light on where the finish line is. That way, when I start again I’ll know when I’m done.

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Why Your Torture Plan Will Surely Backfire

A lack of guidance becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where the employee doesn’t meet your standards because no one – except you – knows what those standards are; maybe you don’t either until you see them met. You have to give guidelines so you get the work you want out of your people. It also creates disengagement as the employee feels unrecognized for the hard work they’ve done thus far, and frustrated by a lack leadership.

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Maybe Try this Instead?

If you’ve been handed some extensive work try not to minimize it with “this is a great start” as that undermines all the effort put into it. Get specific. Clearly explain what you want. If you don’t clearly explain what you want and then say, “this is a great start” the employee’s going to think, “Start?? I thought I was done!” If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want then indicate that you don’t need anything extensive because the project at hand is just getting started.

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Dear Employee,

Though we have our hurdles ahead of us, I just want to send a friendly reminder that it does not matter how slowly one goes as long as you do not stop. This is an exciting stage for us, it’s where we learn the rules of the game and the next step is for us to play better than anyone else. These aren’t problems, they’re challenges! And anyway, we should expect problems and eat them for breakfast. I think it was Albert Einstein who said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” But I don’t want to be one of those bosses who throws empty phrases at you so I’ll just say, in my own words: if you can dream it, you can do it, the secret of getting ahead is getting started, and keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.

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Dear Boss,

Thank you for these extremely motivating words. Please know that I am all gratitude but also words are powerless to express my gratitude. I can’t thank you enough. I’m forever grateful. Thanks for being there when I needed you. I cannot express my appreciation. Please accept my deepest thanks. Your generosity overwhelms me. I will never forget what you have done. Thanks a million.

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Why Your Torture Plan Will Surely Backfire:

Although your intentions may be great you sound disingenuous, like an automaton, the business version of a Stepford wife. Words only go so far.

I want to share a tale with you…

A guy is climbing a mountain. He’s exhausted and starts to lose his balance.

His friend says to him, “keep going tiger, you can do this, you’re the man!”

The guy falls to his death.

If you want further proof that really brings it home do a Google search that starts with “inspirational quotes are” and you will find the following:

0*-6-y_7-K2sm-7yfu

 

 

 

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Maybe Try This Instead?

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde

Just kidding. Well, not entirely. If clichés do motivate you personally then use one, but don’t use two. You’re typically only given a pass for one in any conversation. After one cliché you become disingenuous. Ask yourself what would motivate you if the roles were switched. What would you want to hear? Maybe say whatever nonsense quote you want to say in your head and then out loud say something personal, relevant and helpful that means the same thing.

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