In one of my seminars last year, we did an opening ice-breaker on the topic of, “What
interesting or extraordinary person have you met?” I was expecting answers
like, “I stood next to Robin Williams at a bike shop … ,” or something along
those lines. To my surprise, we spent the next hour-and-a-half listening to
some remarkable stories.
One of the very first people to speak set the tone.
She didn’t talk about anyone who was rich, or famous, or had celebrity, but instead,
she spoke from her heart about a person she knew who had made a huge impact on
her. And from then on, everyone thought a bit more deeply about the real people they admire. Emotion began to come out, as we heard stories about friends, spouses, autistic children, acquaintances, and coworkers.
These were ordinary people who had an extraordinary impact. But how?
Since this is the first article in this years’ series on the “High Points of
Leadership,” we’re looking at the Top-10 things that managers most want to know
about leadership. The study revealed their most common question was about
motivation and inspiration. “How can I get employees engaged and excited about
their jobs? What really motivates? How do I inspire them when morale is so
So let’s go back to the seminar for a moment.
It seems to me there were two common denominators in these stories that morning.
First, people inspired others by the way they approached their lives. Oftentimes, it
was in how they faced difficulties. They were the ones who stayed positive, overcame
obstacles, and met life’s challenges with amazing grace. They were persistent,
and met adversity head-on. Problems didn’t slow them down or get in their way,
because they had things to get done. They knew their purpose in life.
These people showed a certain “inner strength.” Or “resilience.”
Secondly, their impact came from doing things for others, not for themselves. They showed great compassion and caring for people, and went out of their way to do
something tangible. Oftentimes, these weren’t great individual achievements,
but the outcome of many small, meaningful acts repeated on a regular basis, which
My thought is this. Your ability to motivate and inspire comes directly from
inside you. Who you are, and what you’re doing. It’s a measurement of your
willingness to serve others, and how well you extend an invitation to join you
in doing something significant.
This is not the rah-rah approach.
You can Google “improving employee morale,” if you just want some little tips, and
techniques. There are some good ideas, don’t get me wrong. But if you’re
interested in the real stuff – invest your effort in the long-term process of becoming
a person of substance – someone worthy of admiration. Be humble. Be good.
Then you won’t have to try to inspire anyone – you just will.
– Jerry Strom
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*‘The High Points Survey: What Managers Most Want to Know about
Leadership,’ copyright 2012, by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Download the
White Paper at: http://www.jerrystrom.com/js_high-points.html