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7 ways to inspire your employees


If someone asked you for a good synonym for inspiration, what would you say? You might answer that stimulation is a good substitute. You might choose influence or encouragement. But, by and large, when people think of inspiration, the word that usually comes to mind is motivation. Terry Barber explores seven ideas to get your staff striving to the best of their abilities.

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. But do we motivate employees to action or do we inspire them to perform to the best of their abilities?

Employers are great at motivation, aren’t they? Well, that depends on who you ask.

Sometimes employers’ methods are less than inspiring: they motivate, all right, but often through manipulation or threats (i.e. “If you don’t meet this goal . . .”)

Even if an organisation does achieve some results this way, the results will be short lived. Again, this is because people may have been motivated but they weren’t inspired.

So, what kinds of actions make the difference between inspiring someone and motivating someone? 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 sometimes called the ‘inspiration factor’. And whether these leaders just have a knack for inspiring those around them or whether they have developed the skill through training, trial, and error, most would agree that the inspiration factor produces more positive transformations than any other leadership trait.

Here, are seven principles for inspiring your employees that you could easily adopt today. Implement just one and you’ll make a difference. Implement all seven and you could change the culture you live and work in.

1.  Be authentic

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 times of difficulty 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 the process down into three steps:

  • Notice;
  • Name; and,
  • Nurture.

After you have noticed a talent or strength in a person, let them know you noticed 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 scarcity 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

Become a teacher 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 will attract and keep good talent. Its employees will also forge long-term profitable relationships with customers.

Terry Barber is an inspirational speaker and corporate trainer and founder of Inspiration Blvd., LLC.  For the last twenty years he has been a consultant to nonprofits on how to inspire their constituents to give and get involved. http://www.InspirationBlvd.com

Photo: h.koppdelaney