So, why is it that we are still asking this question today? Do we as leaders and managers not know how to motivate and inspire our teams? Or, are we looking for a silver bullet?
People who know me will be aware that this is a question I like to ask fairly regularly. I ask people who are leading teams of hundreds of people. I ask people who manage small teams. I ask people who neither manage nor lead others. Why? Because there’s a lot of commonality in what inspires you, me and the rest of the working population. Understanding this holds the key to being a more inspirational leader and getting the best from your team.
From the many, many people I have asked this question, here are the common answers to what inspires and motivates people:
We had a good relationship – First and foremost people feel connected to the person that inspired them, and this runs much deeper than just getting along. The inspiring relationship is like a partner, someone you trust impeccably. Call it a connection, call it love, call it a relationship. We all feel much more at ease and trusting when we share a deeper emotional bond with another person.
How good are your working relationships? Do people feel a sense of connection with you?
They believed in me – People feel a sense of belief when they are trusted, given opportunities and allowed to make mistakes (without repercussions). People often say that the person who inspired them saw something in them that no else could see. The belief in them is also positively reinforced with kind words and reassurance that they are making good progress (even when sometimes is less than it could have been).
Are you demonstrating trust by providing people with opportunities? Can you let go? Are you willing to let people make their own mistakes?
They offered their support – Support is a complex word because it can mean so many different things to different people. Some see support as leaving someone to make the mistake (could be the right thing to do sometimes), others see support as hand holding and providing people with lots of encouragement (again could be the right thing to do on some occasions). The best approach to take with support is often situational and needs you to give up your time to go to the coal face with your team and make a decision on the level of support required. This could be anywhere from, leave the team with “I will let you guys decide” to “I will get involved if you feel it would help”. This needs practise and will be different for each member of your team.
Would your team describe you as supportive?
They set a good example – People quite often feel inspired by someone that has acted as a role model, maybe referred to as a father figure or mentor. This is usually at a time in someone’s life that they needed guidance or a good teacher to demonstrate good practise. How to behave as a leader and get the best from your team. How to inspire others. You don’t know what you don’t know, so having someone in your life that is modelling what you believe to be the right behaviour can be very powerful and motivating.
What example are you setting for your team? Are you making progress ‘because of’ your behaviours or ‘in spite of’?
They coached me – When people tell me they have been ‘coached’ well they never use language like; they told me what I needed to do. The feedback is typically the opposite, I usually hear; they pushed boundaries of my comfort zone (even when at the time I didn’t enjoy it), they challenged my thinking and stretched my ability, they provided valuable insights when I felt there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Like supporting people coaching is very much a situational approach that will need you to be flexible depending on the person and the task.
Can you stop telling people what to do? Do you want each of the individuals in your team to learn, grow and excel? Do you have the capacity to ask the people in your team the right questions at the right time?
They gave up their time – To build good relationships and inspire other people will not happen without a time commitment from you. A lot of the feedback I receive on inspirational people is that they gave up time regularly (weekly, even daily) of up to an hour, which was dedicated to them. Time to just listen. Nothing more a lot of the time. Just sitting back, not talking, not giving orders, no talking about the vision, the burning problems, just one hundred percent attention to listening.
How much time do you devote each week to actively listening to your team?
It was Depeche Mode that sang ‘People are People’ in the 80’s and this is so apparent in teams. If there is one thing we all have in common it is that we are all people. We are different and what makes us tick may be slightly different, but the basic factors that inspire us are the same.
1. Draw a circle in the centre of a piece of A4 paper.
2. Write your name in the centre.
3. Populate the perimeter of the sheet with the names of the people in your immediate team.
4. Draw a line from your circle to the names of each of your team (these are all the people that you are responsible for, the people you should be inspiring)
5. Work through each of the questions (in bold) for each of your team. Do this person by person.
6. Write notes on anything that you feel is important from each of these questions on the line. You may benefit from using colour coding. One colour for what is working well with that team member. One colour to indicate an area for improvement.
7. You now have a visual representation of the strength of the connections/relationships in your team. Have you spotted any trends? Lots of room for improvement with individuals? Spending time with people is an issue for the whole team?
8. Set yourself one thing that you are going to change and do better for the next 30 days. Yes that’s right. Just one thing. Easy!
9. Do it for 30 days. It’s probably on the edge of your comfort zone, so ask for help if you need it.
10. Repeat the exercise in 30 days’ time.
If you truly want to inspire people and get the best from your team you will take the steps needed to make the change. I repeat “if you really want to”. Ultimately that’s the difference that makes the difference. You need to want to do it.
Hope this helps. If one person in the world takes the steps required and benefits from reading this post, it has done its job.