Tuesday, April 15, 2008

April 15, 2008

Motivation and Inspiration

Hello Everybody.

"And the beat goes on....................."

We talk a lot about leadership, but rarely seem to get into what leadership really entails. My experience in past advocacy campaigns that have involved the creation of coalitions and collaborations have taught me that the skill of being able to motivate people to action and to sustain a high motivation level over time, is invaluable in setting and achieving specific goals.

But how do you do that? How do you motivate people to support and become part of your agenda? And how do you keep them involved in helping you to realize the mission statement of your organization?

Robert Louis Stevenson once said: "Keep your fears to yourself, but share your inspiration with others."

I came across an article on the internet by Carmine Gallo about American business leadership and how they might learn to be more inspiring. The lessons are applicable to us as well I think.

Here's that article:

by Carmine Gallo

"American business professionals are uninspired. Only 10% of employees look forward to going to work and most point to a lack of leadership as the reason why, according to a recent Maritz Research poll. But it doesn't have to be that way. All business leaders have the power to inspire, motivate, and positively influence the people in their professional lives.

For the past year, I have been interviewing renowned leaders, entrepreneurs, and educators who have an extraordinary ability to sell their vision, values, and themselves. I was researching their communications secrets for my new book, Fire Them Up. What I found were seven techniques that you can easily adopt in your own professional communications with your employees, clients, and investors.

1. Demonstrate enthusiasm -- constantly. Inspiring leaders have an abundance of passion for what they do. You cannot inspire unless you're inspired yourself. Period. Passion is something I can't teach. You either have passion for your message or you don't. Once you discover your passion, make sure it's apparent to everyone within your professional circle. Richard Tait sketched an idea on a napkin during a cross-country flight, an idea to bring joyful moments to families and friends. His enthusiasm was so infectious that he convinced partners, employees, and investors to join him. He created a toy and game company called Cranium. Walk into its Seattle headquarters and you are hit with a wave of fun, excitement, and engagement the likes of which is rarely seen in corporate life. It all started with one man's passion.

2. Articulate a compelling course of action. Inspiring leaders craft and deliver a specific, consistent, and memorable vision. A goal such as "we intend to double our sales by this time next year," is not inspiring. Neither is a long, convoluted mission statement destined to be tucked away and forgotten in a desk somewhere. A vision is a short (usually 10 words or less), vivid description of what the world will look like if your product or service succeeds. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer once said that shortly after he joined the company, he was having second thoughts. Bill Gates and Gates' father took Ballmer out to dinner and said he had it all wrong. They said Ballmer saw his role as that of a bean counter for a startup. They had a vision of putting a computer on every desk, in every home. That vision -- a computer on every desk, in every home -- remains consistent to this day. The power of a vision set everything in motion.

3. Sell the benefit. Always remember, it's not about you, it's about them. In my first class at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, I was taught to answer the question, "Why should my readers care?" That's the same thing you need to ask yourself constantly throughout a presentation, meeting, pitch, or any situation where persuasion takes place. Your listeners are asking themselves, what's in this for me? Answer it. Don't make them guess.

4. Tell more stories. Inspiring leaders tell memorable stories. Few business leaders appreciate the power of stories to connect with their audiences. A few weeks ago I was working with one of the largest producers of organic food in the country. I can't recall most, if any, of the data they used to prove organic is better. But I remember a story a farmer told. He said when he worked for a conventional grower, his kids could not hug him at the end of the day when he got home. His clothes had to be removed and disinfected. Now, his kids can hug him as soon as he walks off the field. No amount of data can replace that story. And now guess what I think about when I see the organic section in my local grocery store? You got it. The farmer's story. Stories connect with people on an emotional level. Tell more of them.

5. Invite participation. Inspiring leaders bring employees, customers, and colleagues into the process of building the company or service. This is especially important when trying to motivate young people. The command and control way of managing is over. Instead, today's managers solicit input, listen for feedback, and actively incorporate what they hear. Employees want more than a paycheck. They want to know that their work is adding up to something meaningful.

6. Reinforce an optimistic outlook. Inspiring leaders speak of a better future. Robert Noyce, the co-founder of Intel INTC, said, "Optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual favor change over security?" Extraordinary leaders throughout history have been more optimistic than the average person. Winston Churchill exuded hope and confidence in the darkest days of World War II. Colin Powell said that optimism was the secret behind Ronald Reagan's charisma. Powell also said that optimism is a force multiplier, meaning it has a ripple effect throughout an organization. Speak in positive, optimistic language. Be a beacon of hope.

7. Encourage potential. Inspiring leaders praise people and invest in them emotionally. Richard Branson has said that when you praise people they flourish; criticize them and they shrivel up. Praise is the easiest way to connect with people. When people receive genuine praise, their doubt diminishes and their spirits soar. Encourage people and they'll walk through walls for you.

By inspiring your listeners, you become the kind of person people want to be around. Customers will want to do business with you, employees will want to work with you, and investors will want to back you. It all starts with mastering the language of motivation."

I tried to deal with the issue of motivation in my book on advocacy (Hardball Lobbying for Nonprofits)

Here is a thumb-nail summary of those points (many of which I think echo the points in the article above):

1. Constant communication is essential for your people to have a sense of ownership in what is going on. You have to keep people "in the loop".

2. Keep it simple. If you want people to do something on your behalf it will be easier for them to comply if what you ask is easy, simple, clearly understood and the goal is ultimately perceived as attainable.

3. Promote a sense of community. People will be more likely to do what you want if they at least perceive that they aren't acting alone.

4. Everybody counts. You have to make everybody feel that their contribution is critically important.

5. Fun. It is easier to inspire people to help if you can figure out ways to make their participation fun and enjoyable.

6. Contagion. You have to promote the "bandwagon / momentum" effect. Nothing is so contagious as success. Thus it's smart to set early goals that can be achieved so that people begin to taste success early.

7. Outrage. People are more likely to join in some effort if they are outraged by some set of circumstances. This is perhaps just another way of saying that you need to make what you ask of people "personal" some how.

8. Training. People will often times want to help, but feel they lack the skills or knowledge to do so. Take away that excuse by providing training, answering their questions, and empowering them to succeed.

While I discuss these strategies in my book as relating to advocacy and lobbying efforts, they are, I think, applicable in large part to any task of trying to motivate and inspire people within your organization.

I also discuss the notion that you need to:

1. Respect your people - don't ask them to do too much, don't presume to invade their privacy by sending them too many unsolicited "asks", don't ignore the demands on their time and energy etc.

2. Use rites, rituals and ceremonies. For eons human beings have understood that participation in rituals and rites and ceremonies help cement loyalty and alligence. Something as simple as a monthly welcome to the volunteer corps coffee meet can make people feel special, and that's what you want to do.

3. Give Credit. As Paul Minicucci use to say: "Give credit where it's due, and give credit even where it isn't due." Saying thank you is the easiest thing in the world and one of the most inspiring tools you can use. Do it more.

4. Be Passionate. If you're passionate, it's easier to ask someone else to be.
It's not always easy to lead the charge for something; to inspire other people to join you, to motivate large numbers of people to help -- but that is the challenge of leadership and, I think, critically important to those of us in the arts & culture field.

NOTE: I am participating on an Advocacy / Lobbying Panel at this year's Americans for the Arts Convention in Philadelphia - June 19-22. Click here for a link to register: www.artsusa.org/events/2008/convention/default.asp

I hope to see many of you there.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit!