When I graduated college, I was a real motivational phrase fanatic. I had quotes pasted around my house and at my desk for inspiration. When I started my first business, I thought posting them in the office would motivate my team. It turns out that they didn’t.
The first place that most people look for inspiration is in these personal sayings, books and famous people. But the best motivation inside any company is actually much closer than they think; Kristi Hedges, an expert in leadership communications and the author of “The Inspiration Code” says the key is simple daily interactions with their immediate manager. She believes the best leaders energize their people in small ways every day. Here is how it can be easily achieved:
1. Listen. People are more inspired when they are listened to rather than talked at most of the time. Kristi believes that although companies spend a lot of energy crafting the perfect marketing message, this matters far less than making a personal connection by listening carefully to a customer, employee or vendor.
2. Focus on personal conversations. The biggest impact on employees’ professional lives are typically a story they have about an interaction with their manager. Kristi believes that people can hold these words from a ten-minute inspiring conversation for their entire career. She states that “these conversations transcend what we are doing in the here and now, to find patterns that take us further in our journey, tap into our passion, and be in service of a larger cause”.
3. Identify other’s potential. Many employees are actually not aware of their unique talents and the value they can bring to an organization. But when a manager takes the time to point this out to them, it can be very powerful. Never underestimate a simple appreciation of another person’s work. I can still remember, my IBM branch manager, Jim crossing off his name on his business card and writing in mine instead. He told me that someday I too could be a branch manager! I have held onto that story for 25 years as inspiration!
4. Be authentic. People aren’t actually inspired by managers that are larger than life. Instead, they want leaders that are authentic and don’t try to be perfect or never fail. This is because most employees will connect on an emotional, not an intellectual basis. They want to know what their manager actually cares about. Kristi believes for managers to be an inspiration, they need to let go of any “well-honed uber professional persona”.
5. Don’t get distracted. Unfortunately, a smartphone, even left on a desk during a conversation can lead to distraction. Research led by Shalini Misra of Virginia Tech University found that "even without active use, the presence of mobile technologies has the potential to divert individuals from face-to-face exchanges, thereby undermining the character and depth of these connections. Individuals are more likely to miss subtle cues, facial expressions, and changes in the tone of their conversation partner's voice, and have less eye contact." When having a face to face conversation, silence and put away any smartphone to connect better with that person.
How do you as a manager inspire your staff through daily interactions?