Brad Henry, the former Governor of Oklahoma once said, “A good leader can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” The same can be said of good business managers, directors, mentors and leaders within organizations!
I was recently working with a fellow leader (aka manager) within our company who found herself dealing with a challenge. This individual is a great team leader, who gives it her all every day to ensure we continue on our mission to Move, Inspire and WOW! In this instance, however, she had been unsuccessful in achieving a key goal that was important to the success of the team.
In our most recent huddle, I asked for an update on her progress in achieving her goal. After a quick review of the numbers, it was clear: the results were not good, nor were they headed in the desired direction. I could see that not only were the lack of results weighing on her but also that she had strayed from the essence of achieving the goal. When we first set the goal, five months prior, she was excited, passionate and driven. Unfortunately, she was no longer in that mindset. She had lost the inspiration, the oomph, that had motivated her in the first place.
Leadership expert Simon Sinek reminds us that, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” That wisdom applies as much to the leader/employee relationship as it does to the company/consumer relationship. Employees and teams are far more likely to achieve goals when their leader is inspired. Too many companies set goals based on numbers alone. At my company, our leaders create the goals. If you, as a team leader, can clearly articulate why a goal should exist you will always have better results.
I asked her one simple question, “Why is achieving this goal so important?” She took some time to think about it, then proceeded to give me a few answers, stumbling along the way. When she finished, I read back the three answers she had just recited to me. After a moment I asked, “Are you inspired? These are your answers after all.” She replied honestly, “No.”
I asked, “Do you feel your answers are coming from a mindset of inspiration or desperation?” (If you guessed desperation, you can probably anticipate where this is going!)
This was her AHA moment. She realized she had lost her passion. The goal had become a burden. She was unable to articulate “the why”; not just to her team, but to herself as well.
We started a “what if” conversation, in which she was able to identify a potential shift to her whole approach. A leader must own “the why” and be able to share it with conviction.
When looking back to my school years, I recall only really learning from a handful of teachers. One teacher, in particular, was truly obsessed with mathematics. He was able to inspire the class and ignite our imaginations about the possibilities and applications for mathematics of all things! He was able to do this because he clearly articulated WHY it was important and the ways in which math could make a big difference in our lives.
Next, I asked the leader about an area of the business where she felt that she was really succeeding. I asked her to share why it was so important and to articulate some of the possibilities if we achieved our goals, priming her mindset into a state of inspiration.
Surely enough, the mood quickly shifted from desperation to inspiration. We circled back to the original “problem goal” and tried again: “What if we achieve our goal? What would be the outcome?” This time her answers came rapidly and with confidence. When I read the answers back to her, “the why” quickly became apparent and we were able to define five clear reasons to motivate her back onto the right track.
It’s easy to get stuck on “how” to achieve goals. Unfortunately, getting caught up in the minutiae and the “how” can be debilitating for a team trying to achieve their goals. Worrying too much about “how” discourages us from daring to dream. It stops us from thinking outside the box.
Take five creative and driven people and put them into one room. Take five naysayers and put them into another. Give both groups a task to accomplish. Give the creatives no instruction. Give the naysayers precise instructions. Who do you think is going to produce a better result?
Whatever your desired outcome or goal is, you must be able to clearly articulate your why from a place of inspiration. The next time you approach an opportunity, pause; take your pulse and take a moment to see if you’re coming from a mindset of inspiration or desperation. When you’re in a state of inspiration and passion, you are able to unleash the best you, the most creative you, the true leader in you!
If you are facing a challenge and seek to tackle the problem from a place of inspiration, DM me.