Feeling Inspired Key To Inspiring Others

Day has become night, Night has become day . . . which becomes night again, then night, or is it day, then . . . its all a blur.

This is the reality when both of your sons, one a Graduate Student in Architecture, the other a talented Musician who writes and performs his own music, return home to ride out a pandemic. Inspiration runs rampant through the house, without regard to the relevance of sunrise and sunset, blurring parameters of what society would consider a traditional daily routine.

Embrace creativity at its peak, catch up on sleep once the moment has passed. Pretty cool.

This may prompt some to ask: “Tall Tim, has this destroyed your routine, thrown you off your game?”

Not in the least. As a Learning and Development professional, seizing the moment is woven into the fabric of my being. My wife is an Interior Designer with a shared passion for discovering creative solutions. Spontaneous insight has been a welcome presence in our home from the beginning. The boys grew up in this environment and feel totally uninhibited in their relentless pursuit of inspiration . . . day or night, as we’ve discovered.

Can the same be said for associates in your work environment?

The benefits of an inspired workforce extend beyond impulse and short-term accomplishments. While convergent thought lauds the role of leaders in the process, methods of achieving inspired performance vary.

We’ll cut through the clutter and begin with what Oxford Dictionaries lists as its primary definition of Inspire:

“Fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something special, especially to do something creative.”

Elements within this simple definition will fill us with the urge and ability to explore the importance of fostering an Inspiration Enabled Environment (IEE).

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Inspire is derived from inspirare, Latin for “breathe into”. Fitting that breathing, an instinctive, life sustaining rhythm would represent a core belief in our working model for an IEE:

You must first feel inspired, before you look to inspire others.

This belief is what inspired one of my favorite Icebreaking Questions. Many workshops have begun with a simple probe:

“Where do you go to feel inspired?”

You would be amazed at how many leaders struggle to answer such a foundational question. Many will ask to be skipped in an effort to buy time for reflection. Some will defer to a popular response from others, one they identify with, but only a placeholder for their reality. What I find most surprising is the number of leaders who will offer “No one has ever asked me that question.”

Which tells me everything I need to know. As a leader, we are charged with creating a permanent perspective of “more”. Our associates are not bound by expectations, but encouraged to think creatively, free to explore the unexpected. We extend collective vision beyond the borders of imagination, knowing success waits impatiently over the horizon.

Whew . . . that’s a lot to ask of someone who is out of breath or running on an empty battery.

This underlines the importance of identifying a place or activity in which to recharge. A space where you can breathe, reconnect with your original passion, and safely separate personal-self from professional-self.

Some refer to “bliss”, a state of perfection that has you oblivious to external distractions. Listening to opinions about what you should do, how you should think, etc., however well-intended, detract from your ability to think creatively. Separation allows the freedom to slow down, evaluate the landscape in front of you.

For me, this means plunging myself into nature. Could be a few hours at the beach, working on our property in Central Florida, taking a walk along a National Park trail, etc. These activities not only slow the pace, they open my heart to incredible insight and awareness. I feel immersed in potential and return to my routines fully charged.

Passion is rekindled, spirit is energized, you feel invigorated, ready to inspire others to pursue the same experience.

Tall Tim True Story: If you struggle with identifying where you go to feel inspired, you’re not alone. I once posed this question to the Vice President of a Luxury Hotel Brand. The gentleman had been with the Brand since its inception, at the time close to 35 years, and had experienced incredible personal and professional success.

He also struggled with a response at first, reflecting on moments throughout the day that inspired him, places he would seek for reflection. In the end, he identified the employees of the organization, those who staff the Brand’s many hotels worldwide as his main source of inspiration. Which is understandable, considering he spent more than 90% of his time traveling, visiting destinations scattered across the globe, and surrounded by an extended family of employees.

Time wouldn’t allow it . . . but if given the opportunity, I would seek a deeper response, one from earlier in the leader’s career. Back to the time when they weren’t living the dream but surviving on hopes and dreams. When they were trying to establish a Brand Identity, still unsure whether the first hotel would make it or not. Where did he go to seek clarity, to tap into the vision that would become one of the world’s leading luxury brands?

There are no right or wrong answers . . . but unless you are in the position of running a Global Brand, you should be asking yourself the same questions.

A Habit of Optimism

Our working model for an IEE is one of endurance, a culture defined by Habits that flow in alignment with core values and beliefs to permeate everyday thought. A fleeting hint of inspiration can be easily overwhelmed by negative influence and contrasting opinion. While quick hits have their place, we’d rather establish a sustained approach centered on creativity and application.

Pursing inspiration, to repeatedly seek creative and more improved paths to achievement, can be exhausting.  Attempts to influence and guide someone who lacks the urge to embrace this internal drive will only delay the inevitable. Your time is better spent identifying talent with a natural desire and the potential for achieving “more.”    

A character trait that should be approached as a competency consideration is Optimism. Given that Inspired Thinking is based on “What if?” as opposed to “What is”, much of our success will depend on trusting the unseen and unknown. A spirit of optimism, the belief or hope that the outcome of an endeavor will be positive, acts as fuel for your efforts to establish and sustain an IEE.

Several diagnostic tools exist to help determine an Optimistic Tendency. This may also be approached through Structured Interviewing, where questions are used to explore past behavior and determine alignment with core values and beliefs.

Ask a potential employee (or an existing one) for an example of when they faced change or a new direction within an organization. Continue with follow-up questions that probe their emotional state during the change. Their response should reveal an alignment with the overall purpose of the organization, even if they did not understand the initial application or specific need for change.

Listen beyond a description of their initial reaction. Optimism is not defined by mind meld or blind acceptance. Perhaps the change wasn’t communicated with total clarity. There may have been unanswered questions and doubts to overcome. What remains important is the moment of awareness, and their ultimate reasons for embracing the change.

The subtle difference between “I still didn’t understand, but I knew it would be good for the team” and “I still didn’t understand, so I just did what I was told” can be telling.    

Someone with an optimistic approach will feel inspired by the potential of movement, beyond the impulse of the moment.

Empower Opportunity

If you have hired optimistic talent with an urge to do “more”, led your team with a focus on growth, and trained in proper execution . . . you have created an environment capable of embracing and supporting Inspired Thinking. Your associates are free to be spontaneous and innovate.

The only thing left is having the opportunity to do so.

Go Next Level

Consider the definition of empowerment in a service-related industry: Based on your experience and authority, you will do whatever it takes to make sure your customer or guest is satisfied. Plug that definition into our working model of an IEE, where associates have the opportunity and are encouraged to practice Inspired Thinking? We’re talking Next Level Empowerment.

Next Level Empowerment goes beyond the liberty to act without first seeking approval. You are tapping into both spontaneous intuition and creative abilities to manifest an outcome that truly exceeds the expected.

Whether a positive or negative circumstance, an enhanced degree of empathy lends itself to options far beyond a scripted response. Your best resources, Front Line Employees, feel inspired to perform, to the best of their ability and unlimited imagination.

Filter As Necessary

For project-related teams or groups, opening the doors to Next Level Empowerment may require filtering on your part.

While goal setting is typically numerically based, Inspired Thinking and Innovation are not. Filtering avoids the risk of individuals pre-judging potential contributions before expressing them to the team. Stress the meaning or purpose of the project . . . over the Big Number or Specific Benchmark . . . to provide freedom of thought.

This will also help to avoid channeling collective thought into One Big Idea, when perhaps a collection of options can be used to achieve a desired outcome.

Spend Time on the Mountain

An aspect of our working model we have yet to address is the unique approach individuals will have when seeking inspiration. I once told a General Manager that I was going “to spend time on the mountain” to focus on a project. Its an expression I use to communicate my intent to spend a few days working on concepts or chewing on ideas.

Her beleaguered response was, “How long do you think you’ll be up there?”

After I explained my preference for generating ideas, which included limiting progress updates between specific due dates, she grasped the meaning. Not that she was totally comfortable with the process but trusted me enough to go with it. Eventually it became a term of endearment, as she would initiate the question “Going up the mountain?” before each new project.  

Granting then respecting the space to pursue inspired thought, allowing creativity to run its natural course can be difficult. Especially when there are stakeholders to respond to, and progress to update. As a leader, your inherent optimism – the belief and hope in the outcome of an endeavor – will be put to the test.

Trust your instinct, and believe that others trust your ability to lead your team.

Inspired, Inspired, Inspired

Are you familiar with the GEICO commercial in which homeowners love the space in their new home, but lament their small problem with Aunts?

When Aunt Bonnie surveys the contents of their refrigerator, she discovers several items past their expiration date. Subtlety aside, she proclaims the status of each “Expired . . . Expired . . . Expired.”

Woven into the fabric of my being . . . each time I see the commercial, and reflect on that indelible tagline, I cannot help but envision the ultimate benefit of an Inspiration Enabled Environment. Picture, if you will, a Tall Tim Re-Write on that script:

When a leader surveys the contents of her roster, she discovers a consistent trait among team members. Subtlety aside, she proudly proclaims the status of each “Inspired . . . Inspired . . . Inspired.”

This will be the result of discovering where you can go to feel inspired, selecting optimistic talent with an urge to do “more”, then enabling an environment that fosters Inspired Thinking. Natural creativity, blended with a strong intuitive sense will unleash Next Level Empowerment, leaving you breathless as you whisper . . .

Inspired . . . Inspired . . . Inspired.    

Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!

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