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Motivation … or Inspiration?

As a leader, do you motivate your employees or do you inspire them? As a parent, do you motivate your children or inspire them? So often, these words are used interchangeably but by no means do they provide the same results.

Take a couple of minutes and write down two things that inspire you and two things that motivate you. You will quickly see that the things that inspire you cause you to feel something on the inside whereas the things that motivate you are generally as a result of something from the outside that compels you to take action. One pulls you toward it with a sense of excitement and effortlessness and the other pushes you giving you a sense of resistance and competition.

Because inspirational rewards involve a natural and organic call from deep within us, they are more enduring giving us a sense of commitment until we reach our goals. The word itself comes from the late Latin word “inspirare” which means “inspirit” or “divine guidance”. Since motivation comes from an external source and offers things like rewards, recognition or appreciation, it is generally short lived. We may be pushed for reasons such as societal expectations or peer pressure.

When you are leading, consider if you are motivating others to act in a definite way to achieve a certain short-term goal or if you are inspiring them by influencing them mentally and emotionally to see a long-term vision that they can relate and commit to. This is particularly important for conscious leaders interested in the sustainability of their businesses, ensuring that future generations are as important as the bottom line for the immediate financial quarter. When you are clear about the difference between inspiration and motivation, the way you perceive your business begins to change. Your strategy goes from short term fixes to long term solutions. Ask yourself:

  • Do you motivate your customers to buy from you (i.e. cheaper prices) creating short term revenue) or do you inspire them to buy (i.e. a percentage of sales goes to a community giveback program) achieving long term loyalty? If you are selling a house, the buyers may be motivated by price but inspired if something in the backyard reminds them of their childhood home.

  • Do you motivate your lenders to lend you money (generally bottom-line financing which means they can as easily turn it off) or do you inspire them to lend you money because they buy into your dream and will weather ups and downs with you?

  • Do you motivate your employees with a paycheck, promise of a bonus/raise or do you inspire your employees because they think they are making a difference in the world and will do anything to make the company successful as loyal brand ambassadors?

The business world is changing rapidly and the talent pool joining daily ask to be inspired and are looking to fill their emotional reservoirs with the same gusto as their bank account. When price and quality are the same, customers will research and purchase from the company that distinguishes itself as a global citizen, one that inspires them to connect. Impact investors are asking to be inspired and seeking out companies that are answering the call of sustainability.

But it starts with you first. Where do you want to be in the spectrum? Are your stakeholders inspired or motivated?

Copyright © 2018 Linda Lattimore

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