Leaders must provide Vision and Inspiration to help people perform at their absolute peak. A simple statement and something that might be considered sufficiently obvious that it doesn’t need to be said. Yet research conducted by the UK’s Engagement Task Force shows that the UK lags far behind many other nations.
For many working people in the 21st century, a job is about more than simply earning a few quid and paying the bills. Of course, for plenty of us, this is still a big part of the reason we go to work – but it isn’t the whole story.
For a lot of us, work is a key part of our identity. It takes up a big chunk of our waking hours.
If you’re in a management and leadership role, as many of you reading this article will be, it may well occupy some wakeful wee small hours too. Shouldn’t something that matters that much feel like it was worth all of your effort, blood, sweat and tears? That it achieved something really significant, far beyond just completing tasks or meeting deadlines?
That’s where vision and inspiration come in to play.
Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to have a role that you loved? One where the organisation, your team, your leader or your work were so engaging and so ignited your passion that you loved going to work every day and felt valued and worthwhile. If you have, you may remember how that felt… that it didn’t feel much like work anymore. That you didn’t spend much of your time watching the clock or dragging yourself back from every break time. That you gave your utmost every day to be your best self.
What if I told you that most people’s work could feel that way? Moreover, if I said that it is a big part of any leader and manager’s job to make that happen. What would you say to that? Would you agree?
For decades – perhaps for as long as jobs and organisations have existed – the jobs of so many people have been just that; jobs. A series of tasks carried out almost subconsciously to serve a machine designed to make money for someone else or meet someone else’s priorities. Treated as a tiny cog and motivated by the same old carrot and stick with little consideration for the individual or their needs and wellbeing. So many people going to work with low levels of engagement and little interest in delivering anything beyond the minimum level of performance that will keep them out of trouble.
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A fundamental belief that any leader should hold (or at least, any leader worth their salt) is that everyone has a lot to offer and that just about everyone starts out with the desire to do a good job.
What you inherit, when you take on the leadership of a team, is probably the result of how those people have been led, supported, engaged and valued – particularly in their current role. If an organisation has disengaged, uninterested people who don’t seem to care, it’s generally been earned – and mostly by the leaders. The research conducted by Engage for Success shows how much of a difference having engaged people make to the performance of an organisation. It improves morale, increases productivity, generates ideas, inspiration and innovation and attracts talent. Much of that begins with leaders. With their attitudes, behaviour, communications, values, relationships and commitment to making their team or organisation a great place to be, doing great work.
Take a look around you? Do you see inspired, engaged people that love their work? If you do, well done and that’s great to hear. The statistics for performance and productivity in the UK suggest you would be very much in the minority.
It doesn’t have to be like that. We can change it. Leaders can change it. We just need to see it, feel it, care about it and stand up for a better tomorrow. There is, without doubt, a wind of change sweeping across society. The workforce we have want change, the workforce we will have will simply expect and demand it.
That wind can either lift your wings or blow you away.
It’s your choice. So lead.