The more we inspire ourselves, the more we can call it out in people around us. Inspiration, in that sense, is contagious. It has organizational benefits too. In a culture focused on measuring talent and ability, we often overlook the importance of inspiration. Thus, we’re inviting leaders to focus on building a culture of inspiration, to trigger new possibilities and nurture performance. Here’s how.

  • Cultivate optimal positivity. Unhappy teams are disengaged and perform poorly. Happiness, or rather positivity, then is a pre-requisite for productivity. However, overdoing it is detrimental too. 236 employees of a software firm were surveyed, to study the correlation between motivation and levels of positive affect. They were asked to rate statements related to their workplace affect, like “I feel energetic at work”. Managers also rated workers on their proactive behaviors.

On comparing results of both surveys, researchers found that very high levels of positive affect actually decreased proactive behaviors. High levels of positivity can give employees the impression of perfection, that it’s not necessary for them to take initiatives, thus reducing their proactive behaviors.

Thus, reward, appreciation and support is essential. So is a culture of respect and inclusivity. But don’t shy away from constructive feedback, disagreement or expressing different opinions. Seek information on what’s not working. Such initiatives are inspiring, as employees learn to push their comfort zones.

  • Encourage self-development. Since inspiration is subjective, allow room for personal growth. This could take the form of team building, flexi-work, opportunities to play/ read/ meditate at work, etc. Anything that goes beyond skill building for jobs. Self-development is a cultural practice, that may involve policies like learning leaves, or volunteering and pursuing hobbies. This certainly sends the message that you care about your team-members, and in turn, your team will be more invested.
  • Align employee’s purpose with the company’s mission. Purpose is an internal compass, which motivates us to engage in an activity. It’s our calling, and the ‘why’ behind what we do. To inspire people, leaders need to find out this ‘why’, and help them connect it with the mission/ purpose of the organization. Research shows that out of 326 federal government employees, 52% said they were motivated to stay primarily because of their organization’s mission! Out of 807 participants working outside government organizations, this number was 53%.

The most effective way of doing so is to develop new skills, through mentoring, job rotations, shared decision making, recognition and conversations about where people are headed, and how they belong.

Looking at the extent of overlap that inspiration has over organizational aspects like employee well-being, productivity, creativity and turnover, it seems like a foundational practice. Let’s not give it a miss!

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