It may be natural to recognize a person after they have done something extraordinary. But what about motivating someone before they begin a task?
That’s when a little inspiration might help.
The word inspiration comes from “inspire”, the Latin roots which means to inflame or to blow in to. This is like blowing air over a low flame to make it grow and glow brighter.
How do you replicate that with the people you work with?
What does blowing inspiring air over a low flame of an idea look like in the workplace?
One definition of inspiring someone is making a person feel like they want to do something and believing that they actually can do it. It is helping an employee have a strong, positive feeling or reaction about a work situation or idea.
An Inspiring Example To Consider
Let me give you an inspiring example of what I mean. One time when I was in Montreal at our company’s head office, our then CEO, Peter Hart, invited me to join him for dinner with a supplier representative and a colleague.
Peter asked me during the meal how my first book on employee recognition was coming along. I told him I was going through the laborious editing process. That’s when he had an idea.
He asked me, “Roy, what is the date of the Recognition Professionals International conference coming up?” I checked my smartphone and saw the conference was 6 weeks away. Then Peter put his hands on my shoulder and said why don’t we get your book ready to be unveiled at the conference. My immediate response was, “that’s impossible!”
Unperturbed by my initial reaction, Peter pulled out his phone and speed-dialed our sales and marketing vice president. He told him he wanted my book printed and ready to have shipped to the conference for me to sign and give to attendees. Once he made the call, he told me he believed I could get the book finished in time to have it printed.
I was flabbergasted. This meant I would have to pick up the pace with editing. It meant soliciting testimonials to include in the book. Marketing would have to prepare a cover design.
Peter’s last comment before leaving the restaurant that evening was, “Roy, we make the impossible, possible.”
And we did!
Creative Ways To Inspire People
Follow these ideas when looking for answers on how to inspire a person.
The nature of work is always changing on people. What you thought was a person’s job description has completely changed within a year. In your one-on-one sessions, find out what people currently are working on. Be prepared to ask open-ended questions like,
· What are you working on right now?
· What is one thing about your work that you get excited about?
· What would you love to be working on if given the opportunity?
· What would you like to achieve before the end of the year?
Good questions will give you the fodder for ideas you need to inspire those you work with.
Listen carefully to what employees tell you in answer to your probing questions. This means paying attention to them and removing all distractions from view. Nod your head and use other body language gestures to encourage them to continue.
Provide positive feedback to them and not judge any of their comments. Ask clarifying questions to confirm your understanding of what they’ve shared.
This willingness to listen helps people know you are somebody who believes in them. Believing in people is the impetus to inspired action.
As an employee, manager, or leader, you are building a positive relationship with those you work with. You develop trust and respect by showing caring concern for the needs and welfare of those you work with. People always reciprocate your demonstration of interest in another with positive performance.
When you show your belief in their potential and growth, you can better prepare to inspire them to action. Even if it is only small steps at first, it is a beginning.
Tell people of your own background and what you struggled to achieve early on in your career. Explain the incremental steps you took if you had a mentor who encouraged you to stretch. Set the stage for inspiring them with the action they need to take.
Perhaps create a forum of excellence where other employees talk about successful projects and new designs and developments they had a hand in. Let people see the creative possibilities ahead of them when inspired and they believe in what they want to do.
Sometimes you have to invite people to step up and take a risk. Tell them exactly what it is you want them to do. Give them the visionary big picture of what they can achieve. Show them the actions required to advance your idea.
Have a challenge board set up where employees gather and post a seed of an idea. Invite an ideation brainstorm session or leave cards that people can add to the original idea. Give other people the chance to inspire you and your peers.
Never leave someone stranded with inaction. Give them a “get-out-of-jail” card or a chance to see how easy it is to see their goal or desire achieved.
You might provide them with needed education or training to progress. You could pair them up with a mentor to teach them the next steps. Or you might channel the company’s internal resources, like my CEO did, in getting a book printed.
Request time in staff meeting for people to share ideas, problems, and projects and solicit solutions. Many people won’t have ideas right away. Let things percolate and ask them to email you solutions they think will work.
You can inspire people to take the next step when you share in the sacrifice of taking action with them. Appeal to the individual’s motivations and positive emotions. Share with them the benefits and reasons why doing what you want them to do is important. And if it is helping them with their own goals, then help them see what they will gain from it.
It’s taking the one big step together with a person who is so inspiring. It might be a helping hand or an open door once a week to discuss things. And you might provide the tools and resources they need to take that first step.
It does not take a great deal to inspire people. You must see the potential in the individual and what they want to do. Be an encourager and enable people to achieve the best things in life.
Recognition Reflection: Do your leaders make time to inspire emerging leaders?
Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.