Inspiration is one of those words. It’s so big. We are all inspired by different words, pictures, people, ideas, etc. We overlap of course, but each of our soul’s is uniquely lit at the core. To me “what inspires you?” is as personal (and as important) a question as “who are you?” and “why are you here?” You can imagine why so many people hide from tackling such a beast.
The problem with hiding from it is knowing what inspires you and how to cultivate it, helps you help others figure out what inspires them. It’s like one big happy domino string of creative sparks. And isn’t that what it’s all about…inspiring others to be their best selves?
Yeah I think so too. We live our lives working in teams. We are collaborative animals and at the cornerstone of success is often individuals helping each other doing great things and providing value in this life.
So how do you do that? What are some top ways you can inspire those around you and those on your team?
Ask Them What Inspires Them
Uhmm, awkward right? It feels too personal to come right out and ask, but trust me…it’s worth it. You might do it by asking what project they are loving right now and why? Or you might ask them what they are up to this weekend to get a sense of what they are looking forward to. Maybe you comment on that extra snap in their step and give them the stage to teach you what they love and why it has them smiling.
It’s not always work related, and that’s okay. Inspiration outside of work, when fueled, can be a huge catalyst across a team and the organization. So don’t be afraid to just go there, as they would say.
Share What Inspires You & Why
Not too long ago my team got in a room and we all shared our favorite TED talk. Was this the best use of an hour right now given our crazy busy schedule? You bet ya. Inevitably, we all picked different videos and it was fascinating to hear the Why. Knowing how each video pulled at each team member’s heart strings was the takeaway.
I shared that I am inspired by people that aren’t afraid to say they were wrong. That hopefully left my team with a few messages — that I want them to be forthcoming if we make mistakes, and that I don’t mind, nor is it a bad thing to fail — but instead it can be a “fail fast” approach that is your advantage. That conversation could be hard to facilitate naturally, this sort of inspiration collaboration hour gave us that platform.
It doesn’t have to be TED talks. Maybe its a book, or an article, or a person. Maybe it’s a song or a specific sentence in a song. Inviting others to share that inevitably leaves the team more aware of how to help each other, which is, of course, key to success.
Encourage the Conversation
You know when someone sends an email at work about their favorite band coming to town, and you have two options — you either don’t respond or you jump out of what you are working on and get in on that conversation. Do that. Do the second one. At SEOmoz we have entire aliases dedicated to fun and FYIs. They serve a variety of purposes, but one of them is to provide an all staff way to encourage the inspiration conversation.
A friend sent around this video to the company not too long ago about being awesome. And from there the team was chiming in on their favorite line and what they loved. Now that is what I’m talking about. Let the feel good flow run wild.
Get Over Your Fear of Losing Them
Too often I meet up with company leaders that tell me how impressive SEOmoz’s culture is. I throw out how we encourage people to work on side projects, we pay for them to learn new things, we get them on stage, we want them to do what they love…and sometimes they leave for it. Inevitably, you see panic hit their face. “Why would you do that?” they ask. #facepalm. It’s life people. These jobs, although we love them, are just jobs. People are here to do what they love, and over time, as things ignite them, those loves can change. As managers we need to be willing to encourage an employee to out grow our companies. It’s not just the nice thing to do…it’s the right thing to do. It’s the only thing.
These are just a few things that come to mind. I’d love to hear what you are all doing to keep people inspired. Are you encouraging them to travel? To volunteer? Are you exchanging offices with other teams and working on totally different problems than your usual day?
Not to get too meta here, but this stuff inspires me. As the talent economy continues to grow, and more brilliant companies join the race — how will the best stand out? How will companies rise above others? I believe it comes down fundamentally to only a handful of things — mission, culture, product and the team. How do you keep that team inspired and stretching? I’m all about it. Would love to hear what you think in the comments below!