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How to Inspire Your Team: Leadership Lessons from Walt Disney

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Walt Disney said, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

To make a dream a reality, it is not enough to simply hope that the stars will align. Walt Disney relied on his business partners, his support system and his Cast Members to turn his vision into a successful company. Walt’s vision was so strong that it continues to motivate and inspire today’s Cast Members.

How can you inspire and motivate your team?

A recent article on Forbes discusses the inspiration that employees desire from their leaders:

“Inspiration that employees want is two-fold. First it must come from the work people do. They must feel that what they do matters to others. They also want to know that the work has impact that is, making a positive difference. Second, the leader sets inspiration in motion. It is the leader’s responsibility to the leader to ensure that employees are focused on the right tasks with the right resources at the right time.”

To achieve success, leaders should consider these three concepts to motivate and inspire their team:

1. Vision and Values. At Disney Institute, we believe every leader is telling a story about what he or she values. These values must be aligned with the vision for an organization or team. If a leader’s personal values do not align with organizational values, it will be difficult to genuinely express a vision that motivates others.

2. Behaviors over Intentions. Individuals within an organization will look to a leader as a model to develop their own behaviors and decisions. While people tend to judge themselves based on intentions, they judge others based on actions. As a leader, it is essential that your behaviors reflect your values and your vision. When rallying a team around a new initiative, it is crucial that you demonstrate its importance through your words and deeds. The best motivation can come from a leader’s example every day.

3. Purpose before Task. When assigning new projects to a team, it is important to discuss the purpose behind the task. Tasks that are isolated from the larger goal can become tedious and confusing, finding their way to the bottom of the priorities list. However, if a team understands the common purpose behind individual responsibilities, they will be more inspired to own the tasks as well as the goal.

IMAGE: © Disney
Last updated: Apr 7, 2014

JEFF JAMES | Columnist

As vice president and general manager of Disney Institute, James brings custom cultural change solutions grounded in the time-tested success and insights from The Walt Disney Company to companies around the globe.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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