There are dozens of business books on how to motivate employees. But almost no one talks about how to inspire employees.
There’s a big difference, says Terry Barber, a speaker and trainer based in Atlanta. Inspiration makes people feel valued. It lifts their spirits and fosters loyalty. Motivation may or may not leave a lasting positive impact.
How do you inspire at work? It starts with a willingness to open up to your staff, says Barber, author of The Inspiration Factor.
MPAW: You argue that motivating employees is not enough. Why?
Barber: Motivation can be good or bad. You can motivate through intimidation. Inspiration is always good. It makes you want to be a better person.
MPAW: How can a manager inspire others?
Barber: Tell your team, “I need you.” Acknowledge your limitations and weaknesses and tell your employees you need them to contribute their strengths.
MPAW: But isn’t it risky to admit your weaknesses as a boss?
Barber: It’s hard to be authentic, to show vulnerability. A manager’s greatest fear is, “What if employees think I don’t know it all? They’ll think I’m not qualified.” Well, it’s inspiring to others when you level with them and you’re comfortable with yourself. It makes them trust you and feel more loyalty toward you.
MPAW: I bet some managers resist your advice to share weaknesses.
Barber: I conducted a training session for 35 people and I asked each of them to share an instance when they felt vulnerable at any point in their life. One manager didn’t speak. At the break, he pulled me aside angrily and said, “If you ever put me in the position to have my subordinates see me as weak, we’ll have words.”
MPAW: What did you do?
Barber: I assured him my intent wasn’t to get him upset. It was to help him break down walls and inspire his employees. I wanted him to see the value in that. You know, people are being asked to do more with less support. And for the most part, no one is making more money for it. So you need a new currency: inspiration.