I received a phone call, several weeks ago, from a friend and former colleague who lives in Ohio. He’s a successful salesman for a growing service company and he honored me by asking my opinion on how they might pitch a new service offering. I asked him, “Why?” My question wasn’t “Why are you asking me?” It was “Why are you doing this new service?” But it wasn’t a question of doubt about whether or not they should offer the service. It was more reminiscent of Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why?” People will want to do business with you more because they believe what you believe than because they want what you sell.
Maybe you’ve heard the story of the three stone cutters. Back in the days when stone was cut by hand, a builder went out to the quarry to observe the work being done. He approached one stone cutter and asked him, “What are you doing?” The worker looked at him like he had three eyes and said, “I’m cutting rocks.” The builder approached a second worker and asked the same question. This stone cutter smiled and said, “I’m earning a living for my family.” When the builder approached a third stone cutter and asked him, “What are you doing,” he was met with a beaming smile and the enthusiastic reply, “I’m building a cathedral!”
Practices of Connection
The two stories above relate to the next practice of connection. Connectors inspire people. The word “inspire” comes from two Latin words, in meaning “into” and spirare meaning “to breathe.” The literal meaning is “to breathe into.” It was originally used of a divine or supernatural being in the sense, “to impart a truth or idea to someone.” The online dictionary defines it as “to fill (someone) with the urge or ability to feel or do something.”
Connection happens at the emotional level. When you fill someone with the urge to feel or do, that’s emotional. Steve Jobs said, “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.” You can feel the difference.
Another way of looking at it is to contrast Inspiration with Motivation. Motivation has to do with “Motives” or reasons. It’s rational. “If you do this (good or bad thing), you will get that (carrot or stick).” You decide based on reason. Emotions may be involved, like a desire for the carrot or fear of the stick. But motivation is logical at it’s core. On the other hand, if you can fill someone with the urge to feel or to do, you’ve got them by the heart. You’ve connected. At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did. They will remember how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou
How Do You Inspire People?
Whether you’re like my friend, trying to help customers with a new product or service, or your a business owner or manager who wants to engage your employees, Inspiration is powerful. So, how do you inspire people?
- Let them know that you understand them and are focused on them.
- Let them know your sights are set high for them
- Let them see your conviction – Lyndon B Johnson said “What convinces is conviction. Believe in the argument you’re advancing. If you don’t, you’re as good as dead.”
- Let them see your example
- Let them feel your gratitude for them
- Let them feel your belief in them
In his seminal work that launched the Servant Leadership movement, entitled “The Servant as Leader,” Robert K. Greenleaf wrote, “The forces for good and evil in the world are propelled by the thoughts, attitudes, and actions of individual beings. What happens to our values, and therefore to the quality of our civilization in the future, will be shaped by the conceptions of individuals that are born of inspiration.”
Whom will you inspire today?