Present day culture often confuses motivation and inspiration, and this confusion spills over into the business environment. However, it is not an issue of motivation or inspiration. Rather, great business leaders know that exceptional business results require both motivation and inspiration and, equally important, they understand the different origins of motivation and inspiration.
How often have you heard some variation of the following phrase, “We need to figure out how to motivate this [insert the name of a team member, customer, supplier, etc].” In reality, it is impossible to motivate someone else to do anything. Why? Motivation is an internal driver. A wide range of factors motivate us. Some of those factors involve basic physical needs—food, clothing and shelter. Other drivers arise from our spirit. Some desires of the heart appear almost universally—gaining the respect of others, feeling loved, and aspiring for significance. Yet, other desires of the heart come from inherent character traits and vary from person to person. For example, crowds energize some of us and drain others. Lastly, spiritual drivers flowing from an intentional commitment to certain values inform and guide our behaviors—caring for the defenseless among us, beliefs about an afterlife, or the importance of learning.
Inspiration, on the other hand, involves an external animating force that draws out behaviors Inspiration is the province of leaders who seek to influence the behavior of others. Inspiration seeks voluntary cooperation not compulsory compliance.
What inferences and behavioral implications might we draw from these differences between motivation and inspiration:
- Effective inspiration requires caring and curiosity. Is not about me. Skillful inspiration is very others-centered and requires cultivating a curiosity about what drives others.
- Effective inspiration requires the expenditure of energy. If we hope to inspire others, we must often provide an input to produce the action we seek. We find in chemistry a complementary analogy where two substances require the presence of a separate catalyst to create the desired chemical reaction.
- Inspiration cannot impose or inject from the outside an idea foreign or repulsive to an individual. We call that coercion. Rather, inspiration is about discovering and drawing out motivations already resident within the other person.
- We can inspire through leadership, but if motivations arise internally, we must seek and hire people motivated by factors suitable for our team or business. Hiring for motivation requires that the organization explicitly understands its own drivers since you cannot hope to find what you cannot describe.
Part 2 (next week’s post) will convert these implications into 15 actionable methods that can inspire ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things.