I want to inspire my team members to improve.
Some people become leaders because they are good at their job as individual contributors. Others are intentional about moving into leadership. In both cases, they’re often expected to perform that role with excellence but haven’t been given appropriate training.
When a leader wants to inspire their team members to contribute their best efforts, they’re well on their way to inspirational leadership. With that vision, they can focus on the skills and resources needed to make an impact.
Anyone can learn how to inspire others. It involves a change of mindset, and focusing on discovering and growing the value their team members bring instead of just themselves. It takes time to master the art of team motivation, but the simple actions listed below can jumpstart the process:
Get to know your people as real individuals.
Inspirational leadership isn’t about telling your people what to do and holding them accountable. It’s about seeing them as people with real needs and lives beyond their work role. Use 1-on-1’s to explore their whole life, not just to review performance. Learn about their outside interests and relationships and the areas that excite them most about their jobs. Remember what they tell you (write it down if necessary) and revisit them in future conversations—especially casual ones.
Capitalize on their uniqueness.
Don’t just try to motivate your whole team; motivate the members of that team individually. Learn the differences between people and customize your approach for each one. Discover their natural talents and find ways they can use them in their role. They’ll feel more responsible about their job when they can tap into their passions and strengths.
Involve your team in goal setting.
Don’t impose your vision on the team and require them to buy into it. Let them know the objective you’re all responsible for, then get their input on how to get there. Listen carefully, then try incorporating as many of their ideas as possible. They’ll feel ownership of the result when they have a part in crafting it. Focus on impact more than performance.
Clarify expectations, agree on a clear path to the objective, then get out of the way. Trust them to use their creativity and innovation to reach goals, then secure the resources and remove barriers that they can’t take care of on their own.
Make them a priority.
These are your people, so invest in them over everything else. Respond to their emails quickly; provide a good work environment; prioritize their well-being with schedule flexibility as appropriate; don’t hold useless meetings and cancel regular meetings if there’s nothing to cover. When you value their time, you show that you care.
Assume that each person wants to do their best work and make a valuable contribution. Never micromanage because it’s the fastest way to erode trust. Stay in regular communication, at least weekly—not to see if they’re performing, but to get their updates and challenges, and to encourage them. People want to be known, heard, and recognized for their contributions and ideas, so go out of your way to encourage them in every way possible.
Inspirational leadership is the most satisfying way to motivate a team. They won’t improve because you tell them to; they’ll improve because they want to—and you’ll be the catalyst that makes it happen.