The Seven Secrets of Inspiring Leaders
Thursday October 11, 8:08 am ET
By Carmine Gallo
American business professionals are uninspired. Only 10% of employees look forward to going to work and most point to a lack of leadership as the reason why, according to a recent Maritz Research poll. But it doesn’t have to be that way. All business leaders have the power to inspire, motivate, and positively influence the people in their professional lives.
For the past year, I have been interviewing renowned leaders, entrepreneurs, and educators who have an extraordinary ability to sell their vision, values, and themselves. I was researching their communications secrets for my new book, Fire Them Up. What I found were seven techniques that you can easily adopt in your own professional communications with your employees, clients, and investors.
1. Demonstrate enthusiasm — constantly. Inspiring leaders have an abundance of passion for what they do. You cannot inspire unless you’re inspired yourself. Period. Passion is something I can’t teach. You either have passion for your message or you don’t. Once you discover your passion, make sure it’s apparent to everyone within your professional circle. Richard Tait sketched an idea on a napkin during a cross-country flight, an idea to bring joyful moments to families and friends. His enthusiasm was so infectious that he convinced partners, employees, and investors to join him. He created a toy and game company called Cranium. Walk into its Seattle headquarters and you are hit with a wave of fun, excitement, and engagement the likes of which is rarely seen in corporate life. It all started with one man’s passion.
2. Articulate a compelling course of action. Inspiring leaders craft and deliver a specific, consistent, and memorable vision. A goal such as “we intend to double our sales by this time next year,” is not inspiring. Neither is a long, convoluted mission statement destined to be tucked away and forgotten in a desk somewhere. A vision is a short (usually 10 words or less), vivid description of what the world will look like if your product or service succeeds. Microsoft’s (NasdaqGS:MSFT – News) Steve Ballmer once said that shortly after he joined the company, he was having second thoughts. Bill Gates and Gates’ father took Ballmer out to dinner and said he had it all wrong. They said Ballmer saw his role as that of a bean counter for a startup. They had a vision of putting a computer on every desk, in every home. That vision — a computer on every desk, in every home — remains consistent to this day. The power of a vision set everything in motion.
3. Sell the benefit. Always remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them. In my first class at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, I was taught to answer the question, “Why should my readers care?” That’s the same thing you need to ask yourself constantly throughout a presentation, meeting, pitch, or any situation where persuasion takes place. Your listeners are asking themselves, what’s in this for me? Answer it. Don’t make them guess.
4. Tell more stories. Inspiring leaders tell memorable stories. Few business leaders appreciate the power of stories to connect with their audiences. A few weeks ago I was working with one of the largest producers of organic food in the country. I can’t recall most, if any, of the data they used to prove organic is better. But I remember a story a farmer told. He said when he worked for a conventional grower, his kids could not hug him at the end of the day when he got home. His clothes had to be removed and disinfected. Now, his kids can hug him as soon as he walks off the field. No amount of data can replace that story. And now guess what I think about when I see the organic section in my local grocery store? You got it. The farmer’s story. Stories connect with people on an emotional level. Tell more of them.
5. Invite participation. Inspiring leaders bring employees, customers, and colleagues into the process of building the company or service. This is especially important when trying to motivate young people. The command and control way of managing is over. Instead, today’s managers solicit input, listen for feedback, and actively incorporate what they hear. Employees want more than a paycheck. They want to know that their work is adding up to something meaningful.
6. Reinforce an optimistic outlook. Inspiring leaders speak of a better future. Robert Noyce, the co-founder of Intel INTC, said, “Optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual favor change over security?” Extraordinary leaders throughout history have been more optimistic than the average person. Winston Churchill exuded hope and confidence in the darkest days of World War II. Colin Powell said that optimism was the secret behind Ronald Reagan’s charisma. Powell also said that optimism is a force multiplier, meaning it has a ripple effect throughout an organization. Speak in positive, optimistic language. Be a beacon of hope.
7. Encourage potential. Inspiring leaders praise people and invest in them emotionally. Richard Branson has said that when you praise people they flourish; criticize them and they shrivel up. Praise is the easiest way to connect with people. When people receive genuine praise, their doubt diminishes and their spirits soar. Encourage people and they’ll walk through walls for you.
By inspiring your listeners, you become the kind of person people want to be around. Customers will want to do business with you, employees will want to work with you, and investors will want to back you. It all starts with mastering the language of motivation.
For more, listen to an audio slide show with additional examples of how to use these techniques.
Where are our heroes today? Or more importantly, WHO are our heroes today?
I am asking you – the ordinary Malaysian wannabe success story. Sorry? Did you say Steve Jobs? Was that Bill Gates? Ooopss I am getting geeky… but in reality I heard nothing of that sort. I heard some whispers of some people wanting to be some well connected politician.
And why not? Hey, if you want to be rich quick in this country… let’s go into politics. Let’s play some golf, rub shoulders with some well oiled and well connected people and voila! bob’s your uncle!
In fact I am seriously thinking of getting into politics. Why? I’ll tell you why… I’ve worked my butt off for years – those late working hours, those expresso nights, those hard work trying to convince people to innovate, to driver operational excellence and to deliver value for the paying customer…. and where am I today? Well, slightly better off from where I started no doubt. But no where near that slick dude (let’s call him Kamal Johari, to protect the innocent) who started the same time I did and is now a business owner, government contractor, a huge loan borrower… but more importantly driving a flash new Merc S-class.
At least he doesn’t have everything… what dork would want to be seen alive (or dead, for that matter) in a Merc? LOL.
Although money doesn’t buy you good taste… it does help people who have good tastes to buy the right things. And I want my BMW M5.
So that does it. My hero from today onwards is that politician / or politically well connected slick dude called Kamal Johari. I am fed up of slogging. I want to get rich quick. I am gonna sell my soul to the devil for this.
Forget about innovating – it’s not important for your employees to think of good ideas – they just have to be great (government) liaisons. Forget about doing some REAL business. Forget about spending years of perfecting a single process and achieving the nirvana of operational efficiency. Forget about everything else.
But always remember the grease: never leave home without it.
So I shall now grease my way to richness. But somehow the Malaysian football team’s second humiliation in the Asian Cup is giving me some hesitation. No, not because I am a great fan of the national team… I have long given up on them. Not because my hero is a footballer (as I said, my new hero is Kamal Johari).
For your information, Malaysia has conceded 5 goals in each of the two matches it has played since the 2007 Asian Cup started. For those who play basketball and don’t understand the fuss on double digit scores let me put this into perspective: Malaysia conceded a total of 10 goals in two matchs, but only scored 1 goal. For the mathematical genius amongst us, this is certainly a bit of a bad news.
But I digress. The reason I am giving second thoughts to my grand plan of selling my soul for quick richness is this:
We no longer have REAL heroes. I used to admire the football players of old (no, i won’t mention the 70s and inadvertently reveal my age). I grew up wanting to play football. Then I grew up wanting to be a racing driver. Then I grew up wanting to be like Steve Jobs.
That is the problem. We have as a nation lost what is the true path to greatness. We have started to take shortcuts. We ditch real ingenuity, hard-work and good leadership, in favour of a path filled with shady deals, favours and…. grease.
And grease is a slippery thing. It is so easy to misuse and then starts the slippery slope downwards. The predicament FAM is in today is just that… we’ve missed out on the basic fundamentals of what makes a great footballing environment.
And today we are in danger of missing out on what makes a great economic environment. We need a few heroes to step up. Let’s hope that these people inspire others to do more good.
One of the challenges at the office is getting the workforce to generate creativity. Our company is in the internet business, and it is therefore necessary for all of us to be dynamic in our thinking so as to be ahead of the game – or at least at the leading bunch.
However, years of rigid education system, a culture of not challenging status quo & seniority, and an evironment of feeding information (as opposed to seeking information) makes creative thinking something of a curiousity than the norm.
The pity is that all this puts all of us at a severe disadvantage compared to other nations.
Yet, all is not lost. The first challenge is to foster this creative thinking environment at the workplace. There are many tools and techniques available.
The key to the adoption of creative thinking at the workplace is top management buy-in and sponsorship. Transforming an organisation from a passive to a creative one will not happen overnight. The changes will be painful. Some may be counter intuitive.
It is therefore also vital that everybody believes in the process. Not difficult given the existing cultural norms. Sponsorship is also vital given that the cost of change may be significant in monetary as well as human capital terms.
But these are the mere first steps. As usual, I have been doing a bit of my own research on the net – – almost randomly, I came across some material that could be useful. So check out mycoted.com – a site dedicated to improving Creativity and Innovation for solving problems woldwide, with that in mind, we provide a central repository for Creativity and Innovation on the Internet as a summary of tools, techniques, mind exercises, puzzles, book reviews etc, that is open to all – and can be written by all.
Feel free to share your thoughts here.
The international Human Genome Project – often described as the “book of life” – was launched with the aim of finding and detailing the genes in our cells that drive all the body’s biochemical reactions.
Scientists envisage using this information to diagnose illnesses and to develop new medical therapies.
The benefits of having what is effectively an encyclopedia of the human blueprint is the possibility of finding cures and prevention for illnesses such as cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases etc.
The completion of HGP marks a new chapter in mankind’s medical progress. The project took about 20 years involving a web of scientists around the world to catalog the human DNA.
Keep an eye out for developments on the medical front.
I’ve often been faced by sceptics about whether on not certain things are possible or not. In fact, I myself doubt certain things will not happen. But one thing that I must learn not to doubt is the human spirit. The spirit of anything can happen. I did a quick google and found some interesting sites relating to bad predictions. I picked one site and re-produce the bad predictions for reference:
It’s generally a bad idea to say something can’t or won’t be done, especially in the realm of science and technology. The following are quotations from the past that haunt their speakers today:
* “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.
* “Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons.” — Popular Mechanics, 1949
* “I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” — The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.
* “But what…is it good for?” — Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.
* “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.
* “640K ought to be enough for anybody.” — Attributed to Bill Gates, 1981, but believed to be an urban legend.
* “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” — Western Union internal memo, 1876.
* “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” — David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
* “While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility.” — Lee DeForest, inventor.
* “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.” — A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)
* “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” — H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.
* “I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.” — Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in “Gone With the Wind.”
* “A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” — Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies.
* “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” — Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
* “Radio has no future. Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” — William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, British scientist, 1899.
* “So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.'” — Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer.
* “If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.” — Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads.
* “It will be years — not in my time — before a woman will become Prime Minister.” — Margaret Thatcher, 1974.
* “I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious sensibilities of anyone.” — Charles Darwin, The Origin Of Species, 1869.
* “With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market.” — Business Week, August 2, 1968.
* “That Professor Goddard with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react–to say that would be absurd. Of course, he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.” — 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work. The remark was retracted in the July 17, 1969 issue.
* “You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can’t be done. It’s just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training.” — Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the “unsolvable” problem by inventing Nautilus.
* “Ours has been the first, and doubtless to be the last, to visit this profitless locality.” — Lt. Joseph Ives, after visiting the Grand Canyon in 1861.
* “Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.” — Workers whom Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.
* “Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” — Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.
* “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” — Albert Einstein, 1932.
* “The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives.” — Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project.
* “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” — Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.
* “There will never be a bigger plane built.” — A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people.
* “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” — Attributed to Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899, but known to be an urban legend.
* “Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.” — Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.
* “The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.” — Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873.