Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be." Make this the year you satisfy that need in your employees, customers, and investors. You have the power to inspire anyone, anytime, anywhere. By learning the language of motivation, you can positively influence the people in your professional life. Accept a new title in 2008: chief inspiration officer.
Managers, leaders, and business professionals generally fall into one of three categories of communicators. Which one would you rather be?
Chief of Blah. This person does not consider the need to inspire his employees as part of his job description. A meeting is simply an opportunity to announce an order; a presentation is a way to score points. Nothing more. His primary goal is to bring in money and beat his colleagues. He is not inspiring, nor does he care to be. Instead of energizing, he extinguishes, snuffing out all creativity, energy, and drive in his employees.
Chief of Mediocrity. This person is genuinely concerned about rallying her team, but she is not equipped with the proper tools. She does an adequate job of communicating her mission, but she could be clearer, more convincing, and more compelling. She generally succeeds at getting projects accomplished on time. She is the type of person you enjoy hanging around with at the company barbecue, but you don't jump out of bed Monday morning to help her pursue the company's vision (BusinessWeek.com, 12/7/07). Her employees show up to collect a paycheck but stop short of offering exceptional customer service.
Chief Inspiration Officer. This person is an extraordinary communicator. He places a strong emphasis on the way he crafts and delivers his message, vision, and values. He rallies employees, customers, and colleagues around the vivid future he sees. He is magnetic. He leaves everyone energized, enthusiastic, and electrified. Investors want to back him, employees want to work for him, customers want to buy from him, and everyone wants to be a part of his world.
We all have someone in our lives who needs to be inspired. Over the past few weeks, several readers have contacted me to discuss the challenges they face in inspiring and motivating their audiences. They range from a school administrator in Texas trying to push her students to do better to the founder of a large homebuilder who wants to motivate his employees, contractors, and Realtors, who are facing the worst housing climate in the company's 25-year history.
Change for the Better
Another reader, Bob Chapman, is the chief executive officer of a large packaging and manufacturing company in St. Louis, Barry-Wehmiller. Chapman is a good example of a chief inspiration officer. He believes businesses have a profound opportunity to change society for the better, beginning with their own employees and customers. "My concern is clearly that business—the most powerful engine in our country—has lost its touch with people. At Barry-Wehmiller, we decided instead of looking at sales or size or revenue, we were going to measure success by the way we touch the lives of people—our stakeholders, our investors, our employees, our customers, our suppliers, our bankers."
Once companies like Chapman's focus on people—making their team members No. 1—customers and sales take care of themselves. According to Chapman, all of his managers have the power to "inspire, motivate, and to send people home each day healthy and fulfilled."
It inspires me to know there are men and women who are thinking seriously about how to reinvent the rules of business. In fact, "inspiration" is a popular term with companies and leaders who recognize the connection between employee engagement and financial results.
All the Difference
Barry-Wehmiller has created what he calls an empowerment team to develop recognition and motivational areas. Procter & Gamble (PG) has developed a management program called Inspirational Leadership. American Express (AXP) offers vice-presidents a program called Leadership: Inspiring Employee Engagement.
But you don't have to run a Fortune 500 to recognize the value of inspiration. Regardless of the size of your company, you play the role of chief inspiration officer. How you communicate your vision and your values will make all the difference between success and mistakes, failures, and lost opportunities.
My weekly columns will bring together best practices, case studies, and first-person interviews with amazing small business owners, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and educators who have mastered the language of motivation. The quality all these leaders share is the desire to inspire others to higher levels of achievement. Once you accept the challenge to satisfy what Emerson called "our chief want," you will not only help others live more fulfilled lives but you will experience more joy, satisfaction, and success in your professional life. Decide today to use your words to make 2008 an unforgettable year.