Lead an inspired life

When I coach members of senior management teams, I often hear them ask, "How can I motivate people to perform beyond – or even up to – my expectations? They just don’t seem to be fired up."
What these leaders are searching for are ways to inspire people-something very different from motivating them. Motivation and inspiration are almost opposites, but both are essential.
Motivation aims to shape the behavior of others in order to serve ourselves. It is based on fear, which has some power, but some limitations as well. If I am into motivating another person, it is because I want to manipulate their behavior to serve my own needs.
If I am an inspiration to another person, I am serving his needs without a lot – or any – focus on my own needs. Inspiration is based on love.
If you think that sounds a little too warm and fuzzy for this topic of business coaching – well I used to think so, as well. Last June, I attended a conference in Orlando. In the bookstore attached to the conference, I bought a baseball cap. It’s a black hat with the word "INSPIRE" embroidered in brilliant colors. I thought I would like to wear it for golf.
I put it on my head and up walked a man saying, "I like your hat!" It turns out the man was Lance Secretan, the speaker for the next session of the conference, and author of "Inspire! What Great Leaders Do." Hence the hat.
Of course, I went to hear him speak. Secretan has a tanned and chiseled face, a well-shaped bald head, and wore all black; a turtleneck, leather vest and black jeans.
He’s a manly man with a booming voice. For several hours, he kept us fiercely engaged, talking about organizations that are infused with inspiration coming from the soul. The leadership in these organizations make inspiration a key priority. I let go of my warm and fuzzy hesitation.
People are yearning for inspiring leaders. I’ve identified three paths toward developing that level of leadership. They are all ongoing and they overlap, I am sure.
The first is a ratcheting up of self-awareness. We have to be willing to let go of the old, of the outmoded knowledge and paradigms, and be open to fresh ideas. Usually, we have to let go of our own old way of being. We have to let go of, "the way it’s always been done around here."
If you have a low emotional IQ, get yourself to a coach or a workshop or read some of the many books that address this vital area. You need to continually sharpen the saw of self-awareness so that you can get yourself out of the way and focus on the needs of others. The less self-conscious you become, the more your authentic greatness can emerge. Also, life becomes less stressful and more fun.
Secretan believes that inspired leaders know their destiny – why they are here on this planet. They know their cause – how they will be while here, what they stand for. They know their calling – what they will do to use their talents and gifts to serve that cause.
This is a big order, and I say, get comfortable with the questions as the answers may emerge over some time. Secretan’s book offers some guidance for this journey. The point is, you need a clear inner compass. You’ll know when you have it, and so will the people in your life.
Second, inspiring leaders operate out of authentic caring for the people they serve. They identify fears and erase them with love. They dig deep to learn what people in the organization need, and then focus on serving those needs.
Third, great leaders model an inspired life. They model the behavior they wish for others. Albert Einstein said a few things I understand, and this is one: "Example is not the main thing influencing others. It is the only thing."
Coaching is a partnership that inspires others toward more fulfillment in their personal and professional lives. Great leaders are great coaches.
My birthday was last week, and many words and gestures of appreciation came my way. (Some really cool gifts, too.) Toward the end of the week, I ran into a lovely young woman who used to manage my office. In the years since I’ve seen her, she has started and grown a successful business on her own. Just before we parted, she said, "You were the inspiration for starting my business." Whew! A complete surprise that touched my soul.
If you lead an inspired life, you will spread inspiration around you in ways known and unknown. It’s well worth the work.
Jo Hawkins Donovan has a coaching and psychotherapy firm in Whitefish Bay and can be reached at (414) 332-0300, or jo@hawkins-donovan.com. The firm’s Web site is www.hawkinsdonovan.com.

November 26, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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