Often, as leaders, the harder we drive ourselves, the more likely we are to lose that perspective that our employees need from us. We are so busy focusing on the “what” that we forget about the “who” and, most important of all, the “why.” This can result in motivation depletion in ourselves and those around us. So, how can leaders become more motivated and inspired? Training may be the answer.
We spendtens of billions of dollars — and tens of millions of collective hours — each year on training and development. Training can be very effective in helping us develop technical skills. However, using training to motivate and inspire leaders can be more challenging. But when done right, training can help motivate and inspire leaders.
Think of a garden. We can plant all the technical seeds we want, but they won’t grow into tall plants and trees unless the soil beneath is fertile. It’s the same with training: We need to put more of our collective efforts into making the soil truly fertile. In this case, the “soil” is leaders’ motivation.
Many senior leaders across large corporations, governments, growth ventures and non-profits feel “stuck on the treadmill” while the world around them is moving faster and more unpredictable than ever. These leaders don’t have the time and space to step back and truly reflect. As a result, they can’t become the leaders they truly want to be.
Senior leaders increasingly want to be the same person in the boardroom as they want to be in the living room. That authenticity is something many strive for. Thus, training should help leaders develop as holistically as possible — not only as leaders, but also as people.
Man existing training programs fall short of motivating and inspiring leaders. Often, traditional training is much better suited for the more technical aspects that they need to master. Mentoring-based approaches can be helpful, but it can be tempting for mentors to over-dial on their own experiences. No one leader’s experience is the same as another. On the other hand, coaching, at least in its purest forms, tends to assume that all the answers are within the senior leader. That’s broadly true, but often when it comes to important inflection points — both individual and organizational — leaders need a new, external perspectives and different ways of seeing and exploring the world. It’s an irony that what is most deeply internal to us sometimes needs some external stimulus, given the pressure of the day-to-day treadmill.
Training and development that dives into deeper questions about direction, motivation and potential, is key to inspiring leaders. Tapping into intrinsic motivators can help to reframe ideas about work, moving away from traditional extrinsic motivators, such as pay, bonuses and promotion which do not serve in motivating us long-term. To truly inspire and motivate leaders, we need to focus on rebuilding the meaning of work.
As a society, we have become deeply confused about work and have fundamentally misunderstood the purpose of work in our lives. We have been conditioned to see work entirely through an economic lens. Performance-based pay has emerged as one of the most popular mechanisms for short-term motivation – paying people bonuses for strong performance. Income, of course, is necessary for our survival, but work has to be so much more if it is to truly inspire and motivate us. Instead, we must look inside ourselves for those intrinsic motivating factors that really drive us.
That being said, we can only harness intrinsic motivation if we know what we are motivating ourselves for. This is where training can help.
To inspire and motivate leaders, training must help create a safe and reflective space in which leaders can articulate direction, motivation and potential — for both themselves and the people they lead. The goal is not only to train leaders, but also to deeply motivate and inspire them. The goal is to not only plant seeds, but also ensure that the soil is fertile enough so that they can grow.