Words Motivate, Actions Inspire

August 11, 2015By Views

by Dave Wendland, as seen in Healthcare Distributor magazine, Out of the Box column

May/June 2015

Today's fiercely competitive marketplace requires the best talent combined with outstanding solutions, making leadership essential. In my most recent Healthcare Distributor column, I shared my views of the decision-making process and how the best leaders have excelled.

In this column, I want to look at two essential aspects of leadership: motivation and inspiration. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, they have two very different definitions. And, like me, I believe you will prefer inspiration.

The word motivation has its origins and roots in "movement." In other words, it's about moving individuals in a certain way toward a very specific outcome. For those of you who are parents, I'm quite certain you can relate to the motivation we exercised when our children were young. I can distinctly recall motivating my children with an action-reward system that went something like this: "Eat your vegetables and we'll be able to go to the park." The intent of the motivation was to encourage my kids to move in a direction or take an action that was less than desirable from their perspective.

In our business activities, there are numerous times when words have to be used to motivate team members to move in a certain direction. Perhaps you can recall the times you "motivated" your sales group during a long and grueling tradeshow or industry event. You talked them through their tiredness and motivated them to see the event through to the finish line. Why? Because you never know when you're going to meet that one contact that may turn into a long and successful business relationship.

In contrast, let's take a look at the word inspiration. Inspiring someone is to literally change the way they think about the particular action you are asking them to perform. I have found that the most effective way to achieve this, and inspire others to take part, is through my own behavior and actions. As an example, I recall when we were preparing to relocate our office following a long-term stint at a previous location. Soon after the owners group declared their willingness to put in extra hours to make the transition more seamless and efficient, the leadership team - inspired by the owners' dedication and commitment - offered to do the same.

Is there a place for motivating words and rewards to encourage others to move in a certain direction? Absolutely. However, whenever possible, I'll continue to try and inspire teams to do their best to achieve a shared goal.

As I was writing this article, the following quote from Simon Sinek (one of the most prolific TED presenters) appeared on my LinkedIn feed...perfect timing.

"Great companies don't hire skilled people and motivate them; they hire already motivated people and inspire them." The quote goes on to say, "People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you' ll be stuck with whoever's left."

Evidence suggests that "inspiring leadership" can be learned over time. I believe the most important factor to shift from words-only motivation to action-centered inspiration, is to jump right in. If you're currently in a leadership role, put your actions where your mouth is. If you're aspiring to become a leader, study the traits of accomplished leaders and gain an appreciation for their style and their actions. Either way, it's time to get moving and inspire your team for all the right reasons.

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