If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.
~John Quincy Adams
What inspires us to do what we do? From ancient philosophers to modern-day behavioral scientists, many people have sought answers to that question. What makes motivation tricky is that sometimes we know why we’ve decided to do something, but often, we don’t. For a leader, the implications are a big deal. How do you motivate people if they don’t fully understand their own motivations? Many years ago, I had one of those ‘aha’ moments that gave me an insight into that question with the help of a friendly ghost named Harley.
Like most 1st graders, there were times when my daughter and her friends would do something a little (or a lot) outside of the rules. When asked by a teacher why, the answer was often, “We don’t know,” followed by, “We didn’t do it.” When pressed a little further about who did, the answer was often, “It was the Harley Ghost.” (the Harley Ghost was a friendly, frequent visitor at the primary school she attended in upstate New York). The conversation then turned to why the Harley Ghost shouldn’t have done that and what the consequences should be if it happened again. This friendly apparition was an ingenious invention by the teachers to help young children make behaviors that they often genuinely didn’t understand more conscious and “self-managed.” Equally impressive is how the teachers intuitively motivated those children by keeping their approach human, simple, and balanced—a valuable lesson for any leader wanting to inspire motivation.
Keep it Human
Keep it Simple
When you help people meet those universal needs, you enable them to do their best and be their best. It isn’t rocket science, but it is behavioral science. Focusing on these three actions will go a long way to inspire motivation and build trust on your team:
- Help each team member understand how their work makes a difference to the team and their own aspirations. Purpose is what gets us out of bed energized and believing that we are doing something worthwhile.
- Invest in your people. Help them develop the competencies that gives them the confidence that they can achieve their purpose and goals. Feeling confident is fundamental to our performance.
- Give people the freedom to do their jobs and demonstrate their capabilities.
Keeping it Balanced
Inspiring Every Day
Inspiring motivation and building trust are always important. In a work world that is suddenly changing with many unknowns and anxieties, it is essential. When you help people find purpose and align it with the goals of your team and organization, invest in their skills to realize that purpose, and then give them the freedom to pursue it, you’ll unlock energy and foster higher engagement and improved performance. Equally importantly, by keeping your approach human, simple, and balanced, your people won’t have to imagine a world in which they wake up looking forward to their work, have a great day working with great people and finish their day fulfilled. They’ll live it. Now that is inspiring!