Inspiring others is something that is expected of a leader. Those of us who assume it is about charisma sometimes don’t even get started. But charisma is perhaps the shallowest form of inspiration. Far deeper and more impressive is when the leader is seen to consistently deliver excellence in their own work; when leaders take time to build relationships with the people that they lead; when they know people well enough to empathise with them and tap into what inspires THEM. But perhaps most inspiring of all is the opportunity to collaborate on important projects with inspiring people.
Inspiring People are Catalysts for Creativity and Innovation
Inspiring people are not necessarily those high up in the chain who have achieved status and power – although it may include them. Inspiring people are those who have interesting ideas, are willing to experiment and fail, don’t mind being wrong, try new things, and move projects forward with energy and enthusiasm. Their energy and enthusiasm becomes infectious, and collaborators around them are inspired to try new things themselves. It is in the presence of inspiring collaboration that innovation and creativity are at their best.
Think about a project you have worked on that seemed to just limp along. What was the problem? Was the objective unclear? Was the team uncommitted? Was the job too hard?
Energize Your Projects
When you bring interesting, energetic and inspiring people onto a project team, something changes. Their individual energy becomes a collective thing, especially if the project leader does some of the following things:
- Helps the project team to get excited about the vision for the project – projects are intended to create something better and exciting for a business, and inspiration starts with knowing that you are participating in and contributing to something bigger than yourself;
- Guides the team in the establishment of clear “rules of engagement”. Project teams do not have the advantage of time in which to work these things out. The team leader needs to set the tone by getting the team to talk about and reach agreement on commitment to deadlines, how missed deadlines will be addressed, the nature of the participation that is expected, etc. After all, most team members have full-time jobs that they do in addition to working on the project, but that can’t be an excuse for reneging on commitments. Rather commit to what is achievable than commit to the unachievable and use your “day job” as an excuse.
- Gives team members freedom to get on with things, try things, make adjustments and report back. You put people on project teams to get things done – so expect them to get things done and stay out of their way. Be available when needed, but trust people who are committed to the vision – they have a stake in it.
- Allows/encourages people to speak for their own work – people who can speak about what they have done and what it took to get there feel valued. It is also an opportunity for them to become better known – and this is good for their careers. It also encourages others.
- Celebrates the achievement of milestones. Most projects are difficult – especially because people work on them in addition to their day job. Every achievement against tight deadlines or tough problems is worth acknowledgement. Celebrating milestones doesn’t mean always having pizza and beer (although it might), but it does mean taking a moment to savour the achievement and slapping each other on the back, so to speak.
So if you have team members that you’d like to inspire to punch above their weight, think about how you could pull them into some interesting projects – projects that expose them to interesting, energetic people, that stretch them, that give them the opportunity to contribute to something important.
If you are a leader/manager and you recognise that you need to become a more inspiring leader, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's discuss your coaching programme.