Let me go full on “Word Nerd” for a minute. The word “Inspire” comes from two Latin words: In-, meaning “into” and spirare, meaning “to breathe.” the literal meaning is “to breathe into” (hence the picture of the balloon). It was originally used of a divine or supernatural being in the sense, “to impart a truth or idea to someone.” It’s pretty easy to see how it has come to mean so many things related to art, music, purpose, etc.
As an Engager Dynamic, Inspire means to generate enthusiasm (ooh, a word nerd alert for another time!) by connecting people’s work to a higher purpose. Hopefully, the mission or vision of your organization captures that sense of higher purpose.
Putting it to Work
Let’s start with your organization’s mission/vision. What is it? Here are some examples of inspiring vision statements:
- Life is Good: To spread the power of optimism.
- IKEA: To create a better everyday life for the many people.
- Nordstrom: To give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.
- Cradles to Crayons: to provide children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school and at play.
- JetBlue: To inspire humanity – both in the air and on the ground.
- Prezi: To reinvent how people share knowledge, tell stories, and inspire their audiences to act.
- Southwest Air: To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.
Hopefully, yours is as inspiring. That just makes it easier. If it’s not as inspiring, that’s OK. You think of an inspirational way to describe what you do. I saw a statement on the side of a truck that said, “We help the world keep its commitments.” I thought that was pretty good! What you do is not what you really do. That trucking company transports goods from one place to another. That may sound boring. But, they know their customers often tell their customers, “It will be there by Monday.” This trucking company is saying, “We’ll make sure it is.”
Your company’s product or service does something for your customers they can’t or choose not to do for themselves. What are you freeing them or allowing them or helping them to do? Make that into a short statement that people can connect to as inspirational.
Making It a Habit
Now, how does your team contribute to that inspiring vision? Are you the Accounts Payable department? Maybe it’s, “We keep the lights on so we can …” The point is to make sure your team members know how important their work is to the overall mission/vision of the organization.
Back to the word inspire, think of blowing up a balloon. You breathe into it, take a breath, breathe into it again and repeat until it is full and vibrant. This is what you do with your team, too. You talk to them regularly about the team mission/vision, about how they’re making it happen for the organization and the customers you serve. When you recognize them for great work, tie that recognition to how it contributes to the team’s mission. When you give re-aligning feedback, do the same thing. Post your team mission on a banner or posters around the work area.
If this isn’t something your used to, you may want to check out my posts on developing habits and Strengthening the Do and Don’t Muscle. If you make inspiring your people as natural as breathing you will have an engaged, productive, enthusiastic team.