A year or so ago, I watched an old 1940s war movie called “Journey for Margaret.” A young pregnant woman was wounded during an air raid and during an operation lost both the child and the ability to conceive further children. As a result, she began to cope with life with a lot of fake good cheer and alcoholic bolstering. I began to reflect on how any of us maintain our inspiration and motivation to continue in the face of frustration and loss.
In August 2007, I attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit held annually at Crossings Church. In Bill Hybels’ last presentation he addressed this same subject as it relates to leaders – how do leaders stay inspired and motivated to continue leading and how do they inspire and motivate the members of their team or organization?
It’s a pertinent question; in different research studies someplace between 40% and 87% of employees leave their job as a response to frustration or lack of inspiration or motivation. Those of us who have been divorced can attest that people also leave marriages and families during those same times of lack of inspiration or motivation. It’s pretty clear that a discouraged leader, employee or family member doesn’t have a lot to draw on to hold the team, organization or family together.
The first question Hybels asked was, “Whose job is it to keep me, as a leader, motivated?” As a Christian leader, he looked to the Bible to find his answer. In I Samuel 30:6, scripture tells us that Samuel “encouraged himself in God.” Hybel’s conclusion – it’s truly up to the individual to keep up with his or her own call to leadership. Some of his suggestions for how to do that are:
- Stay clear about why you are doing what you’re doing
- Be sure you are maximizing your God-given gifts and talents – Focus on your strengths – Marcus Buckingham in First Break All the Rules, Now, Discover Your Strengths and in the most recent Go, Put Your Strengths to Work teaches how we are depleted from working in areas of our weaknesses and we are strengthened and excited when we are working in the areas of our strengths.
- Make sure the people you surround yourself with are inspired and inspiring – pay close attention to people who are de-motivators to you (even if one of them is you). We can take in so much daily garbage that we can demotivate our own self.
- Read great books (although there isn’t anything wrong with reading fiction; Hybels is talking about reading biographies and books on leadership that help you grow in the direction of your dreams)
- Rub shoulders with EIPs (exceptionally inspiring people) – take the time to seek them out
- Participate in inspiring events. That likely means you’ll need to spend some time thinking about what really does inspire you. That’s why I attend the Leadership Summit as well as the Maximum Impact seminars each year.
- Pay attention to your physical condition and to the disciplines that keep you fit, like exercise, proper nutrition, water and rest.
- Pay attention to your work environment – decorate it, clean it, organize it.
- Have inspiring recreation outside your work time that recreates you.
- This is one that generally gets neglected in the corporate world, but it is Hybels’ suggestion and mine – Practice daily spiritual disciplines. Sensing the voice of God speaking to your spirit can inspire you for days, months or even years.
Once we’ve dealt with our own inspiration and motivation, what’s the best way to motivate those around us? Collin Powell earlier in the day had said “Optimism is a force multiplier.” Optimism enhances everything that has to get done in a military or governmental setting. Hybels said number one on the list of how to motivate those around us is to Live a motivated life around them! Avoid negativity. Positivity is also a force multiplier. In addition to your own motivated life,
- Connect everyone you lead to a compelling cause
- Learn the inspiration language of each individual person on your team and speak it to them.
- Identify and reduce every de-motivating thing
- Celebrate every sign of progress
Finally, Hybels asked the question, “What would a church look like if everyone were inspired? We could ask here, “What would your business look like if you were all inspired?” Hybels once again went to scripture for his answer and found it in the second chapter of Acts. I won’t quote it in its entirety, but I will list some of the verb phrases:
They were all devoted to
everyone was filled with a sense of awe
the people gave to the poor at unprecedented levels
radical acceptance of one another
the community noticed and wanted to join them.
We all have dreams, goals, places where we serve and lead and we all get tired and frustrated when the results we hope for are delayed. It’s up to each one of us to discover and practice what motivates us so we can live a motivated life around the people we come in contact with – in our businesses, in our churches, in our communities, and in our families.
When the day is dark and dreary
And we know not where to go;
Don’t let your heart go weary,
Just keep this thought in mind…
It is better to light just one little candle
Than to stumble in the dark.
Better far that you light just one little candle,
All you need is a tiny spark.
If we’d all say a prayer that the world would be free,
A wonderful dawn of a new day we’d see…
And if everyone lit just one little candle,
What a bright world this would be.
Go Light your World!