Inspired employees: how to engage staff with the founders’ inspiring initial vision?

When you start a company alone or with a small team, the ambition you have and the vision that drives you is quite clear. But what happens when your company has passed start-up phase and you grow faster every year, with more and more staff joining the team? Does your company still run on inspired employees?

Does the team know your vision? That thing that makes you work tirelessly on your goals and so proud of the accomplishments you’ve made so far? And do you know what makes your staff work tirelessly and what makes them proud looking back on the years they’ve worked for you?

It’s time to ask yourself if your initial vision is still accurate? To what extent do you communicate your vision to your staff? And have you shown enough interest in their vision? What effect has an inspiring business vision on internal operations and ultimately on performance? Let’s explore this together.

You might not be the Steve Jobs kind of inspirator. You are not the type of guy or girl who likes to stand in front of your staff to give a speech on freedom, co-creation or some other philosophical theme or personal anecdote just to inspire.

You might even refrain from much staff interaction at all, because you hired people to do that for you, managers. Yet what drives your business? What drives the people that work for you? The people that your people hire, based on what shared passion are they inclined to work for your company?

It could be that it’s about the job they get to fulfill. They love their field and at your business they get the chance to further develop their skills and do what they love doing the most. And/or you offer great salaries and other benefits, so they love working for that.

But for a lot of people [generations x-y-z] working is about more than practicing their trade, developing skills and earning a decent living. It is about contributing and being part of something bigger than yourself. About connection to a bigger goal and connecting to the people they work with and for. They want to feel and contribute to the energy that flows through the organization and feel excited about team efforts.

Many employees [across industries and company size and structures: in commercial, impact or public organizations] choose to work for a company not only for the job, but for the vision of the leaders on the world or the company’s work field. You can have your marketing team or an external branding company present the most inspiring campaign and company website to attract employees. But once they are in, do they get to experience and share passion one-on-one with each other and with the company’s founder?

The interaction of performance and inspiration

Harvard Business Review has published several studies on business leadership and inspiration and conclude that inspiration among employees is key to business performance. “When employees aren’t just engaged, but inspired, that’s when organizations see real breakthroughs. Inspired employees are themselves far more productive and, in turn, inspire those around them to strive for greater heights”.

Inspiration seems to have a snowball effect on individuals and those they interact with. Being inspired enhances productivity and joy, that can in turn inspire the next one and the next. A steady flow of inspiration into your organization could be a simple investment, with a lot of output and spill off effects to enhance business performance.

One other important observation by the Harvard Business School is that inspiration and performance not only affect each other linearly, performance by example is a necessary form of leadership to bring inspiration across. “Those who focus only on inspiration may find that they motivate the troops but are undermined by mediocre outcomes. Instead, inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results”.

Bringing across inspiration onto your employees thus entails much more than standing up on a stage every now and then and speech. You need to lead by example. By excelling in what you do in the business. This way you not only motivate, but invite your employees to join you in the success.

Live it, be it, do it

If you want to inspire your employees, you need to know what inspires them. It all begins with your people. If you’ve decided that you want your employees to be inspired you need to first make a connection. You do this by starting to talk and getting to know your employees.

There might be too many employees and too little time to have an in depth conversation with each and everyone, but you can make it a regular habit in your week to engage with employees, by talking about passion. Share yours and ask what drives them in their job and in this company.

From these conversations you will learn a lot. You will learn about the things that are in place, that positively affect your employees. You will also learn what things are missing or what things you do feel, but they don’t experience in the same way.

Also the effort you make by having these conversations on a regular basis, the interest you show and time you take to talk about these subjects, will already have a positive impact your employees.

You start to notice a form of attention and human connections on a deeper level than planning and performance. And you could decide to incorporate this throughout the business. But remember it all starts with you. Show your support by example, not just talk. If you are serious about motivating your staff to achieve great things, you need to be in it yourself first. From there you can delegate your management to implement it in a more structural way.

Ultimately you can develop a roadmap to implement continuous flows of inspiration into you business and integrate it into the company culture. Perhaps you haven’t yet defined your company culture. Then this is a great way to start building from a strong, ambitious and positive place. If you did already have a clear company culture (meaning you actively communicatie about it), you can review and see how inspired action and team motivation could become part of the very core of your operation.

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Inspiration is such an import part of life and business. Inspiration makes you move, creates new ventures and helps you to keep going when things get tough. By running an inspired business, you create stories that inspire others to get started or keep going.

The supply of inspiration is endless, you just need to tap into it. Minimal Mass gathers inspiring stories on business and environmental awareness. Check our stories online and share your story with us.

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