Posted by: drewdice | July 19, 2012

What leaders do

Motivate or inspire?

Too many times, I hear leaders say things like: “I wish my people (or a subset of people) were more motivated”, or “What can I do to get people to work/produce like (fill in a name)?” or “What can I do to better motivate….?”

By now, you know how passionate I am about improving performance – of individuals, teams, business units, and entire organizations. And my personal perspective, and the belief to which I subscribe is that, in the above scenarios, the leaders are asking the wrong questions.

To me, motivation comes from within – attempts at extrinsic motivation, in most cases, have negative unintended consequences (if you condition people to perform for a ‘carrot’, a result will be that they want bigger carrots), while also cause people to narrow their focus, often times losing the bigger picture (for more information on this topic, Daniel Pink does a great job: A person’s sustainable motivation comes from within her – this is where passion lies, and this cannot be given to one person by another.

Inspiration, on the other hand, is a whole different ballgame. In my opinion. it is absolutely the role of the leader to inspire her people – employees, clients, shareholders, communities.

Inspiration comes from understanding what is most important to a person or population, and drawing those things out – it is a ‘pull’ rather than a ‘push’. With inspiration, here is what good leaders do:

Connect: With understanding comes the ability to accomplish amazing things. Think about people you know who do a great job connecting with others

Engage: This is about truly ‘being there’ with another person – being dialed in, totally focused and present, and having meaningful interactions with others

Model: After a period of time, people stop listening to what others say, and watch what they do. One of my favorite quotes is: “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying”. Inspirational leaders get this, intuitively and model the way forward

Transparent and authentic: No hidden agendas. The ‘why’ connected to what is being asked or what is done is clear, so people can make a committed decision to enroll in the mission – or not. There is no half-way or passive committment.

Be the change you wish to see – through inspiration.

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