“Second star to the left and straight on �til morning.”
– Peter Pan enspiring Wendy to go to Neverland
key difference between lousy leaders and good ones is the ability to
motivate or inspire people. But these days, that ability, rare as it
is, simply isn’t enough. Given the skeptical and cynical times we live
in–and despite a widespread hunger to feel motivated and
inspired–people often respond with reluctance or opposition.
so? If you look at the concepts of “motivation” and “inspiration”
through the lens of emotional intelligence, you begin to understand why
lasting power for the people they are meant to energize and activate.
To motivate is to pump people up (or from a cynical point of view, puff
people up). It aims people toward a goal (usually the CEO’s) and then
fires them toward it like a rifle shot. Too often, the people listening
do not have the courage (or compensation package) of the leader who is
doing the pumping and aiming. When the pump’s away, the people deflate.
After such calls to action I have heard people inside a company — who
lack job security and have to work harder for fewer benefits — say to
each other, “That’s easy for him to say. He just got a raise, while
we’re having our jobs cut. You know, he (the CEO) should save his
�selling’ for our customers. He should know better than to think he can
sell us [insiders?].” Too many people are too far down and too weary to
buy into being pumped up momentarily.
More people need to be lifted up than pumped up. This is what inspiration does. Whereas motivation seeks to mobilize you
telling you to take action, inspiration accounts for the notion that if
you are too wounded you may need some compassion and healing before you
on your feet. That compassion is not wasted. It feels good
to be understood–to have others know that sometimes you’re not being
lazy; sometimes you are too hurt to do anything other than lick
your wounds after a truck has hit you. But as with motivation,
inspiration, although more satisfying to the spirit, can also fall
short of helping people reach a goal. Too often, inspiration lifts you
up but doesn’t give you specific steps to take. So you are left feeling
better, but still just as lost about what to do next.
If trying to motivate or even to inspire falls short of helping people reach a goal, what’s a leader to do? He can enspire
his people. To enlarge is to make larger; to enable is to make able; to
ennoble is to make noble. To enspire is to both lift up and direct.
Enspiration makes something happen. It gives people the will to find
the way and also the way to sustain the will.
To enspire as a leader takes several steps:
Step 1: Get where people are coming from vs. only focusing on where you want them to go.
Communicate to them that you get “it” so that they feel “got”, i.e.,
understood and connected with from their position not yours. Think of
the “I feel your pain” mantra of President Clinton before it became
overdone and seen as a joke.
Step 3: Pause before you throw
the “bum’s rush” at them; allow them to exhale and feel the relief of
finally being heard and understood.
Step 4: Having exhaled
and released their distress, they are now open to listening to your
call to action and are now ready to “inhale” their new marching orders.
You have earned their allegiance and commitment by going to their pain
and pausing to comfort it.
Step 5: And this is very important
and where mere inspiration falls short. They need to see your goal for
the company very clearly, understand it fully, and be given the chance
to enroll in it rather than have it forced down their throat. To do
this, they don’t get to pick the goal, but they do get to choose with
you the best way to reach the goal. When they participate in the
decision making about how to get there, they will participate in the
Enspire Learning out of Austin, Texas is doing just this. Under the leadership of founder, Bjorn Billhardt,
Enspire Learning’s mission is to “inspire and motivate, leading
learners to retain, internalize, and apply knowledge more effectively.”
Key to all their approaches is a high level of interactivity. They
don’t use a cookie-cutter approach, which would just be fodder for the
skeptics and cynics. When they customize their approaches, it
is more from an inside-out than outside-in direction with their
clients. As such they not only get great “buy in” they get great
“trying” (i.e., implementation) of the approaches that are developed.
leadership is an idea whose time has come. The enspirational leader
knows that when you get where people are coming from, they’ll let you
take them where you want them to go.
Mark Goulston, M.D.
helps new managers get out of their own way and enspire their people
and is the author of the recently released: Get Out of Your Own Way at Work — and Help Others Do the
Same (Putnam, 2005).