7 Easy Inspirational Leadership Acts

It doesn't take a lot of effort, money or time to inspire people

Here are 7 easy, yet inspirational leadership acts that will help you connect with your people and boost morale in the workplace. Better yet, these actions will take little time away from all the other pressing matters you are faced with each day.

Tip 1: Take time to 'Break Bread' with your team

How well liked and trusted are you? 

Does your team see you as a distant stranger who spends a lot of time in his or her office?

Are you confident you have a real handle on the mood of your team and know what people are gossiping about? 

If you have some challenges in these areas then start spending time in your company's cafeteria/lunch room. It is the best place to firstly, get a feel for the mood of your organization and secondly to build relationships with people.  

People are more open when 'breaking bread'

Let's talk first about building relationships. If people don't know you more than being the person who sits behind a desk/computer making decisions and providing direction ...then it is unlikely they'll go out on a limb to help you achieve your goals.

Breaking bread is an easy, and for millennia has been a cornerstone to building relationships. So, make use of this time-held tradition.

Get yourself known as a person with hopes and dreams, challenges and annoyances. Get to know your people as individuals with hopes and dreams, challenges and annoyances.

Above all getting known for being human, before being a leader, will help you achieve great things in your leadership career! And, certainly, it doesn't mean sharing all your deepest darkest secrets!

Next, let's talk about understanding the mood of your organization. What you hear people talking about, how they interact with each other and the tone they use inside the lunchroom is generally far more accurate than anything you might read in a formal Mood/Culture Survey.

So take advantage of that. Take the time to regularly eat or have coffee where your team does (it needn't be every single day - just a few times a week). 

Whether you are there to build relationships or get a feel for the mood and rhythm of your team you can initially expect that it will be a bit uncomfortable (for both you and them). You can expect conversations to be guarded and a little stilted.

As people become used to you being around eventually they will open up. Discussions will turn towards issues that are hindering their performance.

Avoid these roadblocks: When this happens, there are two major roadblocks you need to avoid. 

Firstly, be mindful that their breaks are just that ... breaks. So don't turn it into a team meeting in the coffee room. That isn't your aim with this tip. Keep a good balance between work and social discussions ... with the majority of it being non-work related. You'll be better liked and respected if you get that balance right.

Secondly, as people begin to 'beef' about what isn't working, you have to walk a very fine line. You must resist, with all your might, the temptation to justify, explain, make excuses for any inadequacies that (from their perspective) have been caused 'by management'. And, you don't want to let it become a free-for-all whining session.

You must resist with all your might...

the temptation to justify, explain, make excuses for any inadequacies that (from their perspective) have been caused 'by management').

You'll need to delicately weave your way along that thin line of not justifying, not shutting down conversations and not turning breaks into a team meeting or a place for people to come and complain to you.

What you want to do, is to just acknowledge (you don't have to agree or disagree, just acknowledge) their concerns. Then either steer the conversation toward ideas they have for fixing the 'problem' or ask them if you can set up a time, back during work time, to go deeper into their perspective and solutions. 

Be careful. Don't make any promises you can't keep. If you cannot use any of their suggestions, you may say something along the lines of, "While I can'' promise that I'll be able to act immediately on your suggestions, I've now got it in my mind, and it will certainly help me to make better decisions in the future".

For decades it has been well known...

that the people closest to the problem have the solution. So it is in your (and your organization's) best interest to listen carefully to the ideas people have for fixing the problems within their workplace.

Asking the people, who work in the front-line, what they'd do differently and then acting on as many of the solutions as you can, will truly skyrocket your team's performance.

And, it goes without saying that you must avoid punishing people for raising 'stuff' that could be a bit 'ouchy' for you. 

As time goes by, as you get to know people's concerns and frustrations (personal and professional), they will come to understand you may not be able to immediately remove these challenges, but you do empathize.

That, when you can, you work with them to implement their ideas, (and don't make promises you can't keep, or shut them down with 'management spruik'). When you get to that point trust will grow. 

As trust grows so does their level of confidence, and that leads to performance improvement. It's a true cycle of success.

Spending time in their world - whether that is the lunchroom or their work area is one of those inspirational leadership activities that is often overlooked, but is so easy to implement. If you can carve out 1 to 1.5 hours to do this each week, you’ll receive some remarkable paybacks. This tip worked for me for many years and has worked for my clients too.

The chatter in your staff lunchroom gives greater clues about your organization's culture than any climate survey!

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Your Easy Inspirational Leadership Act:

Spend time socially with your team - morning tea, lunch, coffee. Do it in 'their space' not yours.

Tip 2: Issue everyone with a business card

An incredibly inexpensive and amazingly powerful practice is to provide each team member with a business card. Receiving their very own personal business card (with their name on it - not just a generic card) can be particularly meaningful for team members who have never been in a job 'senior' enough (i.e enough status) to justify/qualify for their own business card.

While I was working at Colgate-Palmolive, every team member in the factory was issued with a personal business card. The pride that most of them felt from this one small symbol of their importance in the organization was palpable.  

Initially, a lot of the team members just shared their cards with their family and friends.

However, as we moved toward self-managing, more and more they were able to use their cards in a business context. 

When people feel important, they will promote your business and proudly so!

One of our team members, whilst doing his weekly shopping saw a customer about to place one of our competitor’s products in her trolley. This team member pulled out his card and urged the customer ...

"Buy Cold Power. I'm one of the team members who makes it. I'm sure you'll love it. And, if you don't here's my card, call me, and I'll personally make sure you get your money back."

This impressed the customer so much that she called up to inform us that she will always buy only Colgate products from now on. She went on to add that if the team members are so proud of the product, then it must be worth using.

When people feel important they will promote your business... And proudly so!

And that is very, very powerful

High-performance tip: It’s a nice touch if you can have a person's business card ready for them on their first day of work with you.  In the "Starting Your Ideal Leadership Role With A Bang" program, I talk about how important the 4Bs of high-performance are in your onboarding process. You nail the 2Bs of "Believing" and "Belonging" when you give them their personal business card on Day 1. 

You not only send a message that s/he is wanted in the company, but you also send a message about the hopes and expectations you have for them and how important they are to the team.

Your Easy Inspirational Leadership Act:

 Show people they are important by providing them with a business card.

Tip 3: Don't be the single point of failure

If you dropped out of circulation for six months, what tasks/activities are you currently doing that the organization would stumble and trip because you aren't there?

If you own activities and tasks where you are the single point of failure, then that's not great leadership or governance. 

A team I've recently worked with were quick to let me know that their biggest frustration is their boss (the owner of the business). He doesn't let the reins go on "stuff" they could be doing. It's so bad that there are times when their whole business stops because he isn't available to fix a problem.

Don't risk Your business or your success by being a poor delegator

Seems nonsensical, doesn't it? That he'd risk his entire business because he doesn't want to/can't let go of some of his tasks. This problem happens in many organization's - large and small - with all types of leaders.

Mostly it occurs because the leader is saying/thinking/feeling something like, "It's just easier/quicker if I fix it myself - it will take me longer to explain it to them". Or, "Whenever I give them work they stuff it up! Nobody does it as perfectly as I do"

Overwhelm and you being the single point of failure is what follows when you don't delegate.

And you know what - that could well be true. But, those beliefs and attitudes will hold you at the level of average rather than high-performance. You've got to overcome those performance-defeating attitudes.

You've got to let the fear of others not doing it right ~ or doing it better than you do!

And, most people want to be involved, do challenging work, feel that their input is valued, appreciated and important. And if you're the roadblock getting in the way of people achieving and contributing ... letting your outdated fears, beliefs and attitudes get in the way of the success of your team, business and yourself, then shame on you!

So, take a look at yourself. What tasks and decisions, are you holding on to that you could be delegating to your team? What is your back-up plan should you not be available for six months?

A high-performing team should be able to wave goodbye to their leader for six months or so, and hardly a blip would be felt in their day-to-day activities. Could that happen in your team?

You'll likely find that when you delegate these tasks to your team (especially if you delegate the tasks to people who are engaged by that type of activity), you'll see an immediate bump in engagement and productivity.

A high-performing team should be able to wave goodbye to their leader for six months or so, and hardly a blip would be felt in their day-to-day activities. Could that happen in your team?

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Your team members are looking for opportunities to be a part of the solution ... let them!

Seriously, if you are the single point of failure in many areas in your business, you probably need to dismiss yourself ... as you are probably holding the team back!

If you need to fine-tune your delegations skills - particularly if you’ve tried delegating in the past and it hasn't been as successful as you'd like - then access the Get It Done, Done on Time, Done Well training

If you are the single point of failure...

in many areas of your business, you probably need to dismiss yourself ...

as you are probably holding the team back!

Your Easy Inspirational Leadership Act:

Don't be the single point of failure. Fine tune your delegation skills so that you get it done, done well and done on time!

Tip 4: Show your appreciation

Many people say they don't need to be appreciated, but surveys show they sure do like it! It seems, from data gathered in survey after survey, that people don't feel their immediate leader adequately appreciates them.

To deliver high-performance results, people need to be committed with not just their heads and their hands, but most importantly with their hearts. 

How much deliberate effort are you making to ensure that hearts are being engaged? Taking the time to underscore your appreciation for a job or effort well done is one small, yet deliberate way of engaging hearts.

Handwritten Notes...

Handwritten notes of appreciation are a power-punched way of engaging your people.

The last time you got a note of appreciation (that was handwritten) how did you feel?

Unfortunately, in our world of busy schedules, constantly chiming emails and social media dings it seems saying 'thanks' is becoming a lost skill.

When was the last time you received a hand written note from someone (and email doesn't count - real pen, real paper) letting you know that you are doing the right thing and that you are appreciated?

When was the last time you sent a hand-written note to someone letting him or her know you appreciate their efforts (even when that person isn't your best performer)?

A wonderful thing about acknowledgment and appreciation is it sets off the 'feel good' endorphins in a person's body (those feelings many people try to get through alcohol or exercise). That 'feel good' feeling is something everyone wants to have repeated and it has a powerful impact on performance.

Therefore, when you regularly use the inspirational leadership tool of appreciation, you are more likely to encourage continuing good performance.

Don't underestimate the impact of emotions

In 2012 Facebook, in conjunction with researchers from Cornell University, manipulated the feed of 689,000 users.

What they discovered was that people's posts were contagious.

If your feed was manipulated to provide you with mainly negative posts, then your posts became more negative. 

If your feed was manipulated to provide you with positive messages then your posts became more positive. (You can read the research here)

So, as an inspirational leader how often are you positively impacting on your people's emotions? As the graphic below shows ... impact their emotions, thoughts and feelings you’ll impact their behavior which leads to shifts in results.

Potential Roadblock in writing appreciation notes: As you write your note, make sure you are specific in the feedback you give. 

Don't just say, "Great job on the ABC project". Keep your note brief, but do specifically describe one or two actions or behaviors that they took that made the difference. 

By being specific in your feedback you are setting it up for them to repeat that performance.  Whereas the 'great job' (which is the equivalent of a high-five) feedback doesn't give them any hints on what you'd like to see them do again.

Here are some sample appreciation letters you can use with your team members. 

Your Easy Inspirational Leadership Act:

Notice the good things people are doing and send them a handwritten note letting them know you appreciate them

Tip 5: Focus upon what 'challenging' people get right - More than focusing on their faults

Obviously, in any group or team there will be at least one or two people whom you find a bit challenging. And, I fully empathize with you just how difficult it can be to provide inspirational leadership to people who just rub you the wrong way.

But there is one simple, easy thing you can do to improve their performance.

Use the Solutions Focused Coaching Model to help you build upon what people are getting right

People live up to or down to your expectations. In the One-on-One meetings training we talk about the Pygmalion Leadership principle.

The research around the Pygmalion effect tells us that if you believe someone is a poor performer, then

  • the expectations you have of them,
  • the way you interact with them,
  • the conversations you have with them

will cause them to deliver less than their best. Which obviously means lowered performance for that individual along with a flow-on effect to the entire team.

Think about the individuals that you find annoying. What's your predominant thinking and conversations around these people? If you are constantly moaning about their faults, the things they do to drive you nuts, then you are setting up a cycle of under-performance.  

So, your easy leadership act here, is give more of your attention to what a challenging person gets right, than focusing upon what they do that makes your life difficult. 

Pick a person that you find to be a bit of a struggle, write a list of all their good qualities. Then focus on those qualities. Start greeting and interacting with them the same way you would with someone you like and feel is a great performer. 

Tell them more about what you do want from them, and less than what you don't want from them. Tell them about the aspects of their performance that you appreciate. 

Use the solutions focused coaching model to help them rate their performance level. Then get them focused on the bits they are doing right and coach them into working out what they can do to build on what they are doing right so that they improve their performance. In doing this exercise it also helps you to focus on and reinforce their good points.

To be clear. Don’t not address their problems - you must address under-performance. But keep your attention more on what they get right than wrong.

Your Easy Inspirational Leadership Act:

Help people to live up to your expectations by focusing upon what they are getting right

Tip 6: Make your non-negotiables clear!

Your non-negotiables are the guiding principles you live your life by and feel are the cornerstones of team success. These are behaviors, you'll hold your team member's  feet to the fire over, because you expect it of yourself and them.

Here are a couple of examples to get your creative juices running.

Example from a leader:

  • Say it openly, honestly and to peoples face
  • Take the well considered risk
  • Love what you are doing, or look for a new opportunity!

And from another leader:

  • Say what you think, even if it is controversial, but do it in a charge-neutral way
  • It's not about hard work or long hours, it's about accomplishing great things
  • If you act like a jerk expect to be asked to find somewhere else to 'play'

The legendary Coach John Wooden from UCLA would say:

  • No profanity
  • Always on time
  • Never criticize a team mate

What about you? What standards do you hold yourself and others accountable to? What are the non-negotiables you live by, and feel are the cornerstones of team success? 

Could you bullet point those three non-negotiables right now? Because, if you can't rest assured neither can your team. When you don't have clarity around how you operate, you can expect confusion (which leads to distrust) from the people you work with.

Potential Roadblock: If you share these guiding principles with your team you must back them up with your actions. You must be a role model and you must notice when they get it 'right' and be prepared to coach up when they don't.

Once, I had a very challenging conversation with a leader around the 'love what you do or look for something new' non-negotiable. Because that principle had been clearly articulated at the start of my journey in our organization, it was a tough, but ultimately empowering conversation.

This video below of Coach John Wooden, provides a stellar example of a leader who lives his brand fully. He was known to stand down his top players if they didn't follow the principles he held the team to account for.

Your non-negotiables are built from the foundation of your values. The My Career, My Choice may be a useful tool to help you articulate (or re-fresh) your values.

And, if you want to discover more about non-negotiables, then access Starting Your Ideal Leadership Role, where you'll discover how to create your non-negotiables and your decision-making principles (which are part of your personal brand).

Just like an organization, the clearer you are on your brand and what you stand for, the easier it will be to inspire and galvanize others to go where you are leading!

Your Easy Inspirational Leadership Act:

Make your non-negotiables clear to others ... then live up to them yourself!

Tip 7: Know your people individually and take time to care

In the 4Bs of high-performance the second B is Belonging. For you to achieve high levels of discretionary effort from your people they need to know that someone cares about them as an individual.

Take time to get to know your people, show that you care, personally and professionally

If you don't know your people as individuals; their strengths, weaknesses, hopes, dreams, desires, challenges, learning styles and hot buttons, you will find it difficult to engage and energize them.

Who do you work with that seems to truly care for others? You know, the person in your team who knows the names of the partners and children of the people they work with?

Who is the person that seems to know when someone is feeling less than his or her best?

This isn't a person who is a snoop. It is a person who has taken the time to connect with other people and show that they care about what is going on in their colleague's world ... beyond the workplace.

If You Don't Know...

your people as individuals; their strengths, weaknesses, hopes, dreams, desires, challenges, learning styles and hot buttons, you will find it difficult to engage and energize them.

How much do you know about the people you work closely with? Here's a quick test for you. Write down the names of the people who report to you. Now answer these:

  • Describe their challenges (both personally and professionally)
  • Do you know who has a sick child/relative?
  • Do you know where they want to go on their next holiday ... their favorite sport/hobby/pastime?
  • Do you know any of their life goals/dreams?
  • Do you know what their strengths are? Have you made it possible for them to make regular use of their strengths throughout their work day?
  • Do you know what frustrates them most about working for you and your organization?

Owing to the busy nature of everyone's schedule and getting caught up in your own priorities there is always a high possibility that you can forget to care for others, (or for some it isn't a skill that comes naturally). So make use of a tool like your diary/scheduler to help you to remember to take the time to care.

This isn't manipulative.

With so many things on your mind, you can't be relied upon to remember everything that the myriad of people you interact with every day tell you. It is the ultimate form of caring, if you take the time to make notes (that remind you of the conversations you have with people), and what you would like to follow up.

For example, in your diary you might have notes like:

  • Ask Jim how his brother is doing since the surgery
  • Ask Mary how she is going with deciding about her next career move
  • Speak to Sue about how she is doing with her scrapbooking
  • Find out how Bob is doing with his singing lessons

Making notes in your diary helps remind you that life is about connecting with others and caring about the people you interact with daily.

The one-on-one meetings training provides you with the skills and questions to help you drive engagement in your team by showing you care both personally and professionally for the success of each person in your team.  

According to our friends from Gallup, engagement is at its lowest when people feel ignored. And here's the kicker: Managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement. So if this is an area you could do with a pick-me-up then access the one-on-one meetings training

It goes without saying that if you just pay lip-service to this tip (in fact any of these tips), and you're not really acting authentically, then it will likely blow up in your face. So, make sure you've really spent some time thinking about how you want to show up as a leader, how you want to be remembered and the legacy you want to leave. There's plenty of reflection exercises in the My Career, My Choice training to help you with this.

Your Easy Inspirational Leadership Act:

Make it a habit to connect regularly, with your team members, driving home that you care about them and their success

Bonus Tip: Take care of yourself

Spending a few moments each day connecting with your inner self, listening to your body and sensing whether you are on target for living your life the way you want is one of the most powerful things you can do and will assist you in achieving incredible results in your life.

In fact, you will find that by creating the space to 'Spend Time Within' you struggle less and create more abundance in your world. You are giving yourself the time to replenish and regenerate, to find a sense of inner calm and peace that you then take with you into your external world.

Time for insight and reflection will repay dividends over and over for yourself and the people you interact with daily. You see the bigger picture and are better prepared to take creative and inspired action - rather than reactionary action.

Use this list, or make your own and check it off each day

And, as important as the inner space is, so to your outer. Do make sure that you are getting those endorphins working in a healthy way by doing some sort of exercise each day. 

Well, I do hope you found these Inspirational Leadership Tips inspiring :). As you can see they aren't going to take much time out of your daily work life, but they will help you to be a leader who lives, loves and leads remarkably.

Have Your Say / Ask A Question

Which of these tips do you think you'd like to implement? Or do you have other ideas that you've used that are quick and easy to implement and drive engagement in your team?