Easy words. Let's examine the way...
How do you Inspire?
Inspiration comes from belief.
If people really believe in the vision and goals you have established - this will inspire them to their greatest efforts. The future represented by this vision needs to be one which is greatly desirable to the people and one which they can see has relevance to their work - they will be inspired to contribute if they can see how their efforts will help to deliver the vision and goals.
Secondly, if they believe in you as their leader, you can inspire them by example, by your values and behaviour. The article on Referent Power in The 5 Powers has much to say that is useful here.
Finally, if they believe in the value of the work they do and the products & services the organisation provides; then this too can inspire them to greater heights.
Often I see this last source of inspiration in organisations who's work is inherently valuable; doctors working 100 hour-weeks, teachers sitting up until 2am marking and preparing lessons, aid workers risking their lives in war zones. Inspiring leadership is almost an 'extra' here; the work is intrinsically inspiring enough. The 'magic trick' of leadership is to be able to replicate this in the less extreme environments of the shop, office or factory.
In my experience, people wish to be of service, to be valuable, to contribute to something worthwhile and to feel proud of the work they and their colleagues do. I would suggest this is just as possible in your environment. You need to find the connection and the trigger to unleash pride. My long-time hero and occasional mentor the late, great Bill Deming spoke about this in the twelfth of his 14 points (Wiki link) and I perceive this point to have been under-emphasised by many followers of TQM, preferring the more central quality principles of points 3 and 5... to me, pride in work is key to optimum performance. The highest aspirations, most stretching targets and the tightest controls will ultimately fall short if, deep down, we know that, in the great scheme of things, it doesn't really actually matter to us or the rest of the world whether we do our best or not.
So, in summary; inspiration comes from belief, value and pride. What will enable your people to feel a sense of significant achievement from the work they do? One example: I worked with a manufacturer of diggers and tractors once. They had many difficulties with quality problems; errors, defects, shoddy work, poor fit and trim - nothing unusal for a factory with a lot of workers earning low wages and uninspired. We decided to take them to visit the customer's organisation and to watch a film showing the vehicles in action: diggers building new roads in China to drive their economic growth and improve the prosperity and even life expectancy of the rural population; tractors creating food and shelter for starving families in Africa.... and so on. Bye, bye quality problems, hello pride in the work. Now it Matters.
What can you do?
Now, to 'Motivate'. The story and comments above have much to do with both Inspiration and Motivation. In my experience, one gives rise to the other. As we discussed in 'The 5 Powers', it is possible to motivate with reward & punishment or with rank - but typically not for long and not that much.
True motivation comes from referent power, a compelling vision and from the hope of a better tomorrow. Your job is to provide these things.
Last, but definitely not least, we have 'Develop'.
The leader is more than a hero or heroine; more than a visionary or guru, much much more than a director, manager or coordinator.
Last and most of all, the true leader must be a coach and a mentor.
This links again to the 5 powers. Guiding, supporting and coaching your people generates both expert and referent power - our two 'preferred' sources - as long as:
- The people believe in the leader's expertise and right to act as a role-model
- The guidance is supportive and neither belittling nor patronising
- The coaching is followed through to reinforce and evaluate impact
I have often found that asking good questions is more important than 'telling'... the most effective teaching is a drawing out, not a forcing in of knowledge.
If you don't have a mentoring or coaching programme in your organisation, I suggest you consider it and involve your key managers, especially senior managers, in its delivery.
Beyond this, we need a programme of continuing personal and professional development - CPD for short. But beware; many organisations I see seem to believe it is enought to 'do lots of training' or to set targets for the amount of CPD people have to do.
Not enough. Not by a long way. You can't just throw resources at this.
- It must seek to meet identified needs that improve performance in the ways that matter and in line with the skills your vision demands.
- It must provide a viable return on time and money invested.
- It must be available and accessible to all that need it.
- It must be planned, delivered and evaluated before, during and after the fact.
- It must link to performance appraisal, quality improvement goals, customer feedback, strategic planning and the predicted future needs of the organisation.
- It must be managed by the senior management team, not by HR
This isn't a dig at HR; but CPD must be an operational issue for line managers from bottom to top - not 'somebody else's problem'. If it lives on the periphery, it will never deliver real value or ever be truly 'owned' as a way of delivering goals and improving performance.
So there you have it. Inspire, Motivate and Develop. Just pop off and sort that out would you?!!
I appreciate it is a major task. But then it would be...
It's what you're for.