One of the reasons I founded The Trademark Company was to breath a Google-esq air of positivity and creativity into an industry long on tradition but notoriously bad on work-life balance. An industry renowned for its threat culture.
Recalling my experiences from the last big law firm for which I worked, I can still remember one head partner threatening to hang me by my tie until I was "[expletive omitted--it started with an F and ended with an "ing"] dead if I did not win the case." Another partner would notoriously tear my trial strategy down for hours, insult me using derivations of colorful words that would make a gansta rapper blush, and then send me out the door with a "Don't F this up!" And they wonder why they chewed threw lawyers like Dan Snyder chews through head coaches (it's a Redskins reference).
But in my relatively brief time on this planet I am sure of this fact: negativity never inspires people to greatness. But through positive inspiration people can reach beyond what they thought possible and achieve the truly amazing.
Maybe in your business inspiration will not lead you to a world sports title. But it can increase your sales, better the attitude of your workforce, and reduce turnover among other benefits.
So how do you inspire those around you? Candidly, it is not that simple. You must look at it as a critical component of your job just like any other requirement. Here's how:
1. It's Your Job...Do It
The first component to inspiring others is to realize that doing so is part of your job, it is your responsibility. Like any other employment responsibility, it does not matter if you are having a bad day, you still must get your job done. Troubles at home? So what? Doesn't matter. Leave it at the door and inspire. Hard night out last night? Leave it at the door and inspire. Feeling a little under the weather? Bummed for you. Man up, leave it at the door and inspire.
The first step in inspiring your workforce is the most critical: recognizing that it is part of your job and performing that job irrespective of what else is going on in your life.
2. Something to Aspire to
No one has ever been inspired to reach mediocrity. People are inspired to reach goals greater than they thought possible. In school we study to achieve the best grades. So in business we must remember this simple norm: people are inspired by a goal or a challenge, something they may not think possible but that you push them to reach. Without a target, there is nothing to aspire to, nothing to inspire them towards.
So to truly inspire your workforce, you must set goals greater than your workforce thought possible. Setting goals bigger than them, more than they thought possible, establishes a critical component for inspiration: something to aspire to.
3. Positive Enablement
The power of positivity cannot be understated. Negativity begets negativity. Positivity likewise breeds positivity.
You've heard about my experience with my last big firm. What you have not heard is my experience with my first. In 1996 I was fresh out of law school. I was hired by a small local Washington, D.C. firm to be a trial attorney in a busy mass torts and worker's compensation practice. My bosses were former assistant U.S. Attorneys who, quite simply, knew how to try a case. They taught me everything I know about trial work. Within one year of going to work for them they had me trying my own cases (Thanks Pete and Ken).
But aside from the great training they consistently inspired their attorneys to achieve through positive enforcement. They impressed upon every one of their lawyers a belief that they could win every case and that justice would be done for their client. Before every trial they would always send you off saying something to the effect "You're prepared, you're ready, now go get it done.
For my first firm I tried about 150 solo cases. I can only remember losing about five. For my last firm-the cursing, tie-strangling bunch-I tried three cases, two with those head partners mentioned above, one alone for another partner. So how did we do? Well, in the two cases wherein I played the role of whipping dog we lost. In the one I was allowed to get away from all of the negativity and just do my own thing focusing on positivity and getting the job done-I won. Think positivity can have an impact?
So inspire your workforce every day. It's your job, do it. Set lofty goals to allow them to reach higher than they thoughts possible. Then enable them to get their through positivity.