Inspiring High Performance in Others

Do you look forward to going to work most days? If not, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if your employees don’t seem to either. Too few people look forward to going to work. It’s an unfortunate state for many businesses in America and their results reflect it. How is it possible that unhappy, unmotivated and disengaged employees could possibly offer exceptional customer service or develop exciting, innovative products that move your brand forward? Like it or not, it’s your role as the leader to provide the inspiration for your employees to find intrinsic motivation and fulfillment in their work such that the strategies and plans of the company can be realized. There are several steps you can follow.

Fire up your enthusiasm. You can’ inspire others unless you’re inspired yourself. There has to be a reason why the marketplace needs your business. If you’re unsure what that might be, think back to when you began. Your energy was fueled by a passion to make a difference. Simon Sinek in his book “Start with Why” makes the point that, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”. Every inspiring leader is passionate—not about the product or service itself, but about what it means to the customer and the larger world. Apple isn’t passionate about making great computers or phones. It’s passionate about challenging the status quo in everything it does. It just happens to do that through innovative computers, phones and other devices. Big difference.

Paint a picture. Our brains are wired to respond more to pictures than plans. Nothing big has ever happened without a leader articulating a vision and a course of action everyone could wrap their minds around. From putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade to ending apartheid in South Africa, inspiring leaders draw us to a vision that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible and inspires us. And saying it once isn’t enough. Inspiring leaders paint a vivid picture and then talk about it over and over as if it was a forgone conclusion. Bold visions communicated with resolute confidence create excitement and a magnetic draw for employees. They produce inspired evangelists. When you have an army of inspired followers there will be many who are capable of figuring out the “how” of the vision.

Pitch the benefit, not the result. Your employees don’t care about hitting your sales or earnings goals. It’s not inspiring and their performance will reflect their attitude. What you measure is the result of why your employees do what they do. Let them know what your goals are and how you’ll measure them, but after that, talk about the goals in terms of what it will mean for them – job security, stability, new job opportunities, advancement, etc. Your employees are asking one question, “What’s in it for me?” Don’t leave them guessing.

Benefits can also include personal anecdotes or stories about how your products or services are improving the lives of your customers. I recently spent time with a top executive of a large, transportation company. He had very personal, touching stories of what the company’s safety policy meant to him. I urged him to share the story in every opportunity he had with employees to give context and purpose for the safety goals.

Build confidence and optimism. It’s human nature not to let ourselves want something we don’t believe we can create. That’s also the case for organizations. That condition stifles the potential and limits the results of many organizations. Great leaders are generally more optimistic than average. We follow great leaders because they have a way of always seeing things work out. They are resilient in the face of obstacles and treat every setback as temporary.

Your employees’ ability to be optimistic will only grow to the extent they believe they can produce results. It’s their confidence in themselves that sets the boundaries of their comfort zone. Pushing people out of their comfort zone only creates resistance and avoidant behavior. Inspiring leaders have the ability to build confidence and draw them out into a bigger world where they can see the possibility of bigger achievements. Building the belief that “we can do this” is arguably one of the most important roles of a leader. But, you have to believe it first.

The topic of inspirational leadership isn’t talked about enough. So much corporate potential is lost because the fire has gone out of the leader. You don’t have to be a charismatic speaker, you only need to show some passion and excitement for your cause. Historically, employees have looked to their leader for inspiration that leads to intrinsic motivation. Too often, however, they don’t find it and the business results also end up uninspiring.

If you’d like to talk more about inspirational leadership, respond to my post or use the “contact us” tab on this page to reach me.

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