How to Be an Inspirational Leader Who Creates Enthusiastic Teams
You are about to discover, what inspiration is, how people become inspired, and how you inspire those you work with so they become more enthusiastic about what they're doing.
A common workplace problem is that people become so engrossed in what they’re doing that they lose sight of the inspiring reasons why they’re doing it. The work becomes a grind rather than an inspiration. So what can leaders do to keep the inspiring vision of the team’s purpose alive so it energizes team members?
How to solve the two-headed hydra issue
As the leader of a team, you have two challenges:
How do I get the team to meet its output targets, on time, to the required quality, and within budget?
How do I keep the team motivated so that they enjoy meeting the output targets?
Pressure is always being exerted around the first, productivity challenge. As a result, people become obsessed with productivity objectives. But productivity challenges are very dry fare, they lack emotional juice. And without that emotional excitement people just plod along. And people who just plod along are not working at anything like their full potential.
The solution lies in creating positive emotions within the team.
The inspirational power of stories
From a young age, we learn to tune in to and love stories. Stories engage our attention. We learn from stories. Stories can arouse our emotions. Stories are one of the ways we keep in touch with the world around us. Stories are how we make sense of what is happening.
In the workplace, we are energized by stories. Rumors often cause surges of anxiety to sweep through organizations. News that your company is producing an exciting new product can give rise to feelings of pride and ownership. New appointments at a senior level make people concerned about how they could be affected. All this news comes to you in the form of a story.
News stories surge around the workplace on a tidal wave of energy. However, this energy is only rarely injected into productive work. So, why don’t leaders make more use of good news stories that have the power to inspire and energize their teams?
My research shows that most leaders do not consider it to be a good use of their time to be constructing stories around the good things that are happening in their team. What a shame!
How the feeling of inspiration improves performance
The feeling of inspiration is important because it affects us in two meaningful ways:
Inspiration gives us an injection of confidence - the belief that we can achieve an objective that is important or meaningful to us.
Inspiration boosts our energy to achieve personally meaningful or important objectives.
The point to notice here is that the feeling of inspiration is generated by thoughts, visions, and ideas that are meaningful and important to us as individuals. Inspiration is personal.
You may be in a crowd listening to great music or an uplifting speech, or maybe you’re just reading a story - whatever, you experience the inspiration at a personal level. It is your very own inspiration which is different from mass hysteria.
How to inspire other people
As a leader, you should always be looking for new and interesting ways to talk with your team members. I know you’re focused on what you want to get done. So the temptation is always to be direct but that can be mundane, and flavorless, a bit like cooking without spices.
You might ask yourself, “Is what I want this person to do the same as what they want to do?” The fact that something is important to you does not necessarily make it important to the other person.
Outstanding leaders are always thinking about other people, about what they want, what they like, and how to raise their interest in what they’re doing.
It is ideas and visions that breathe life into people. This is especially the case when the ideas and visions are wrapped up in stories. They create feelings that inspire people to achieve more than they ever believed themselves capable of. Your job as a leader is to generate ideas and visions that have meaning for your team members.
How one leader inspired their team
The team had been working day and night, knocking themselves out to meet a new product launch deadline. There had been little time for rest and recuperation. Eyes had been fixated on the ball.
Yet, even in this pressure cooker environment, the leader gathered together every member of the team, every day, at 3.30 precisely in the team room. No one was allowed to miss this meeting, no excuses were acceptable, and lateness was not allowed.
Tea and cakes were provided and everyone sat around for half an hour with their feet up. During these break-out sessions, team members had to tell personal stories. Everyone had to tell a story at some time.
One day Diana told how her dog had cut his leg on a barbed wire fence and needed veterinary treatment. Another day John told how his girlfriend had left him because she was fed up with the lack of attention as a result of his working such long hours. And on yet another day Rita informed the group that she had bombed out on one module of her MBA course because she hadn’t had time to study the coursework.
These personal stories of success and sadness enabled the group to get to know each other at a personal level. Exposing personal weaknesses and successes made everyone feel more humble. Above all, sharing personal “secrets” bonded the group together.
As more and more stories were told, the group became increasingly protective of its members. As they ground their way toward their objective the desire to support one another grew. They felt like one unit on a mission. They hit their target.
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