“In a world of targets, pressures, deadlines and regulations it is more important than ever that a leader offers a compelling vision and inspires their people to deliver at their peak.”

Nigel Girling is a founder member of the Guru Group supporting the Government’s Task Force on Engagement. He has acted as chair of two task force working groups and writes extensively on leadership subjects. He promotes leadership in his roles as subject matter expert for the Chartered Management Institute and Director of the National Centre for Strategic Leadership. He leads post-graduate and doctoral programmes and mentors hundreds of senior leaders.

Here Nigel looks at Vision & Inspiration – Persuading others to join and support you, and has provided us with 10 Tips on how to Inspire.

1. Show your Enthusiasm & your Passion

People respond to your passion for a vision and will often be ‘infected’ by it. We are a suggestible species and always looking for a sense of direction and a cause. Make it your direction by showing how much you care about your vision and why it really matters – and people will usually follow you.

2. Choose your Words with care

It’s easy to fall into the habit of using mundane, everyday language or filling your communication with facts and data. It doesn’t inspire people and it never will. People are moved by stories and imagery, by human emotion and by language that resonates and paints pictures for them. That’s how great orators have been able to gather bands of followers for centuries. You need to think carefully about the words you use and hone your communication to ‘press the right buttons’. See also tip 1!

3. Talk about the ‘Real’ point of things

In this heavily-regulated world, we can often fall back on enforcing compliance and laying down rules. You need to be clear about the real point. Compliance is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The true point is about people’s health and wellbeing and about building a better workplace that best serves its stakeholders. Talk about that instead.

4. Don’t just monitor, Engage

Monitoring, measuring and auditing are all valuable tools, but can be inherently disengaging to many. They will often take it from it that others make the rules, that their job is to keep their head down and get on with their tasks and that ‘big brother’ is always watching. It can reinforce – or maybe even create – an ‘us & them’ culture. It’s crucial that your approach makes people feel that you are all in this together seeking to support and serve each other for the greater good.

5. Don’t be dull, be Quirky

When people see and hear anything a lot it can soon become invisible or inaudible. Blah, blah, blah. Just Muzak. Wake them up and reconnect them by coming at things in odd and even downright weird ways. Think about the way adverts will often use very odd imagery and straplines to change the way you view a product. Try to do the same.

6. Make it about the Team

Most of us are inspired by being part of something we care about. It is often said that soldiers in wars don’t die for their country, they die for their friends. We are a tribal people and will generally give our utmost for the good of our friends and families. Not always for ‘bosses’, not for shareholders, not for regulators or rules, maybe not even for ourselves – but we’ll do it for each other. Use that power for the greater good.

7. Choose goals that Mean something

Decades of promoting accountants, technical experts and engineers to top jobs has often made us very efficient and cost-effective, but often leads us to choose mechanistic means of motivating people. Who get’s inspired by the thought of increasing return on assets? Or market share? (I know some do… but they need to get out more). Goals that inspire will usually be qualitative rather than quantitative and human rather than mechanical or financial. Lost time through accidents isn’t just data, it represents emotional distress and human suffering. If you’ve seen Emma Currie’s Gail’s Shoes you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, you should.

8. We succeed – and fail – Together

Great success can be really inspiring, but only if people can see the part they played in it and can feel proud of what they and their team did. When a CEO talks about the firm’s achievements, it’s often so disconnected from people’s daily lives and work that it means nothing or even demotivates. Equally, failure can be hugely motivating and can galvanize teams and individuals to give their best. Its all in the way it gets communicated and the way people are engaged and involved in deciding what to do about it.

9. Have high Expectations

Good people tend to rise to a challenge. If you set the bar at a moderately high level, you will usually get moderately high performance. Is that enough? Probably not. Set it higher and help people to jump it, and you can move to a different level.

10. Do It All the Time

You don’t just inspire people every now and then at a significant event. Inspiring leaders are always inspiring. At the water cooler, in a one-to-one, with a team, at lunch, in meetings, in emails. Always.

Leader isn’t a job title, it’s a way of being and a way of behaving.

Written by Nigel Girling for The SHE Show North East, 5th March 2019, Newcastle United Football Club.

Please note, the views expressed by the original article author are theirs alone and do not necessarily represent those of Washingtondowling Associates Ltd or The SHE Show and therefore we take no responsibility for the content or accuracy of this post.