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Five ways to inspire your team (and yourself)

Five bulbs on a blue background and one of them is glowing.

Imagine a workplace where people are engaged in their work and energized about their future possibilities. An organization where everyone gives their best effort, risk-taking is encouraged  and growth is the norm. A place where you, as a leader, are both inspiring and inspired.

Seems like a great place to be, right?

Sadly, that is not reality. Most of us are not in an inspiring environment and aren’t getting any closer. Gallup’s annual engagement survey shows that 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work; a figure that’s held steady for 15 years.

We know how amazing it feels to be inspired in our work. Most of us have had it at some point, even if fleeting, which is why we miss it so much when it’s absent. When we take a leadership position, we finally feel that we can create the kind of culture that we’ve always wanted. Yet, even that proves to be frustrating. Difficult personalities, organizational realities and misaligned expectations seem destined to thwart us.

Inspiration is, however, too important to give up on. If you’re a leader who wants to engage and motivate others, I have some good news. There is a path to inspiring others, and it’s actually pretty straightforward. You don’t need the popular notion of inspirational leadership, that proposes far-reaching visions and rousing motivational strategies. Turns out, that’s not the path at all.

For my latest book, The Inspiration Code, I spent five years speaking to leaders and researching what actually inspires others to do their best work. The findings were surprising and heartening. What truly inspires others to work harder, to innovate, and to buy-in to new ideas is within anyone’s reach. Here are five behaviors to start right now:


Cultivate a presence that supports your goals.

While you’re speaking, your presence is screaming. Others look at how a leader moves through the world – what they pay attention to, ignore, how they react, and what they care about. Too often a leader’s presence happens by accident. Most leaders don’t take the time to look inward and determine the values that they want to put on display.

Inspiring leaders are clear about the values they represent. They know what’s important to them and look for ways to convey that in decisions, conversations and ideas.


Listen well and stay curious.

While inspirational leaders communicate frequently, they focus just as much on listening. In fact, in my research, listening was the #1 cited inspirational behavior. (Now juxtapose that against how much time we spend on what we say, rather than how we hear).

Focused, curious listening conveys an emotional and personal investment in those around us. When we listen to people they feel personally valued. It signals commitment.

Listening is inspirational because it creates a space for another person to process their own thoughts. Leaders who go into conversations curious to learn about another person, rather than to judge or analyze, foster insights.


Spotlight the potential you see in others.

Recognizing another’s potential – sincerely and specifically – is one of the most powerful and inspiring conversations a leader can have. Most leaders know the strengths of their team members, but don’t express them. People too often forget their own unique talents.

Having someone take the time to tell us is a powerful reminder, and can open our own minds to what’s possible for ourselves. It doesn’t have to be said with flowery language, you can simply state: I see ____ in you; or You’re always good at ______.


Treat your energy as a strategic asset.

Social science research shows that our moods are contagious, and life shows us that energy is a precious resource. As a leader, you need to bring the energy and emotion that you want to see reflected back from others.

Too often we expect supercharged teams when we, ourselves, feel burned out. We have to inspire ourselves first to make our energy work for us. Good leaders learn to calibrate their energy and mood to the situation – which requires us to truly determine what we need to bring to elicit that reaction from others.


Live into your purpose and help others to do the same.

Everyone wants to feel a sense of purpose about their work. This doesn’t come from a well-crafted vision statement but emerges from inside ourselves. Leaders play a large role in helping workers to see how their efforts fit into a larger picture for the company, and for themselves.

Having someone engage us in these deeper questions can lead to some serious inspiration.

But these conversations are so needed that we don’t have to go into a big life’s purpose kind of discussion. Being willing to help someone connect the dots to understand the meaning for where we are at this moment in our lives and in our careers is huge. It helps to transcend what we’re doing in the here and now, and to find the patterns that enable this work to take us further in our journey, to find enhanced enjoyment, and to tap into our passion.

Did you miss our July 12th webinar? Watch the overview of Kristi’s leadership tips below:


Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of The Inspiration Code and The Power of Presence.  Find her @kristihedges.