How Do you Inspire Your Team?

You do not always have to be on the higher ground to be great.

When a highly effective leader takes over a new team, the first thing he/she wants to know is, who the team are. They are not interested in what they do initially. They want to get inside the minds of every single individual on the team, and learn about them as a person.

The first meeting they have with the team is not about him/herself, it is about the new team he/she has just taken over. The highly effective leader will ask the team a lot of relationship type questions. By doing this, they and the rest of the team can learn things about each other that they didn’t already know.

1. It’s All About Humility

The team are also invited to ask questions of the leader, so that they can learn about him/her in the same way. This is all about humility, which is one of the great traits of a highly effective leader. It is not about results, or the job.

Humility is not a trait of a low performing leader. If you ask a low performing leader what humility is, they might struggle to give you the correct answer. Especially the low performing leaders I’ve worked with in the past.

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In my experience, when a new low performing leader took over a team that I was part of (and there have been quite a few), their initial meeting with us was all about them. One leader actually gave us a presentation that was all about himself, and how he got to where he was.

He didn’t ask us about who we were or our careers. My first impression of a low performing leader is, they are very arrogant, they have a huge ego, and they have a lot of pride in themselves. That then leaves no room to have pride in others, especially their team.

We were treated as numbers, instead of people. It is very uncomfortable to be around them. Whenever they are asked a difficult question, they will avoid it like the plague. Their communication skills are very low, and they are not clear of their intentions (as we discussed previously).

2. Communicating With Confidence

Highly effective leaders ooze confidence, and low performing leader’s reek of arrogance. The difference between arrogance and confidence is very tiny.

Highly effective leaders know these differences well, and they know how to stay on the right side of confidence. Low performing leaders don’t know these differences, hence they come across as arrogant.

When low performing leaders try to communicate with their team, what they are actually doing is not communicating. They are telling. Communication is a two way street. Telling is a one way street, very much like dictatorship.

Highly effective leaders are excellent communicators, but they can also go beyond communication and connect with their people. They connect deliberately because they know that connection doubles communication.

To motivate our people, we need to communicate with them. Motivation is external, and when we motivate people we are talking to the person’s thoughts, or their conscious awareness.

It is our words that they listen to that could change their behaviour is some way. Communication and motivation can only be done externally to the person or people.

3. Moving Beyond Communication

To inspire our people, we need to connect with them. Inspiration is internal, and when we inspire people we are talking to the person’s feelings, or their sub-conscious awareness. How we make our people feel from what we do, not just what we say.

We can inspire people from the tone of our voices, our body language, but most of all from our actions. Connection and inspiration can only be done internally to the person or people.

Everyone throughout the world can communicate, even low performing leaders if they choose to. When we communicate however, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are building trust or building a relationship with a person.

There are different types of communication. But, to communicate all we have to do is share the information we have with another person. When we do that, we have officially communicated.

Not a lot of people throughout the world can connect with others. Highly effective leaders know how to connect with their people because they learn how to do it beforehand. They study connecting with people, then they practice connecting with people until they can do it effortlessly.

Connecting with people is how you make a person feel good, or positive. It is about feelings. When we deliberately connect with a person, we are building a relationship with them. What do we build, when we build a relationship? Trust. A highly effective leader will connect with their people every day.

I have worked with a lot of low performing leaders who “tell” us what to do. Unfortunately I have only worked with a few highly effective leaders who “inspired” us to do the right thing. I want to create more highly effective leaders who can inspire more people, and hopefully one day outweigh the low performing leaders.

4. Gaining Your Team’s Buy-In

When a highly effective leader inspires their team, it is very easy for them to get the team’s buy-in to new changes or new ideas. They trust their leader, and they follow him/her because they want to.

Low performing leaders find it very difficult to get their team’s buy-in because they don’t trust their leader, and they don’t follow him/her. When this happens, the team become impossible to work with. I have experienced this first hand on many occasions.

A lot of low performing leaders are actually in the leadership role because they were forced into it, or nobody else could take up the role.

This too is unfortunate because you have a person who is supposed to lead and inspire a team, when they don’t want to. That is a recipe for disaster. Nobody should ever be forced into leading a team. It will never work.

I speak a lot about having respect for your people. When forcing one of your people into leading another team, when they don’t want to is not showing them respect.

Not giving them a choice is manipulation, and can actually come across as a threat. You MUST find a person who wants to lead a team, who wants to motivate people, who wants to inspire people. Someone who wants to help others and help you too.

A highly effective leader will always show respect to their people. They do not want their people to ever think that he/she doesn’t respect them. So, to avoid this they will never force one of their people into doing something that they don’t want to do. Especially leading a team.

Leading a team is a huge commitment, and is very difficult. It is something you must want to do, and must never be something you have to do. Much like following a leader. Following a leader must be something you want to do, not something you have to do.

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When I wanted to take over my first team, and I thought I was ready, I was living in Liverpool. It was 2011, and I went to my engineering director Kevin and discussed it with him. I had a strong relationship with Kevin, and he had helped me to develop and didn’t force me into taking up any kind of role that I wasn’t ready for.

He had helped me build up my confidence, and he inspired me. In other words he connected with me. He went beyond communication and connected with me, as he did with many others, and still does to this day.

Forcing people to do things is not how you inspire people. Connecting with people is how you inspire them. When connecting with a person, you must make it about them. You must listen to them well. Let them do most of the talking, and you do most of the listening.

When you listen to the person they feel cared for, when they feel cared for they feel inspired, when you inspire them your influence will increase.

Connecting with a person is a great opportunity for you to learn from them, and about them. How do you do that? You listen to them. Interrupting them, or deliberately cutting them off will break that connection. Control yourself and you will connect with your people.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

36 thoughts on “How Do you Inspire Your Team?

  1. Hi Tom,.

    Great post on effective team communication. In today’s remote world it can be harder than ever to inspire your team. I’m not a manager, nor do I think my manager would appreciate me sending this to him, but I do think you’ve provided a lot of great advice in this article! I definitely think respect for everyone on the team is the first and most important aspect of being able to effectively inspire a team. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Dev,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that you found this a great article.

      If you feel that this article will help your manager then I would definitely share it with him. It would be great to get his feedback too, and if he feels that what I have written will help him.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. Hi Tom,

    I might need to share this article with my colleagues to learn how to inspire our team no matter we are leaders or not because I think all the points also work very well for our internal communications. If we can all inspire each other with confidence and be humble, then it’s highly possible that we can exceed our KPI this year.

    Thanks for sharing today.
    Matt

    1. Hi Matt,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found this article valuable.

      Please do share this article with your colleagues, as I would love to help them too. You are right, the principles I share do not only work for leaders, they work for all walks of life. We all have the ability to influence, so we all have the ability to lead.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Tom,

    I know all too well the arrogant leaders. Always raving about who they are, where they came from. They never ask questions of those under them, because to them, you’re under them – beneath them. Which isn’t the case at all. We all bleed red and we all take poos. Yes, I said that.
    I had an AM (Area Manager) that was arrogant. She would pretend to get to know people, but the conversation always went back to her. Her previous job, her achievements, etc. I was the only one that saw through this in the corporate area I worked. She ran 11 stores and I was one of the few managers that saw her true colors. I was cordial and professional. I attended events that she demanded I attend, personal events she put on. But I never got too close. I knew she was a fake just from the words that came from her mouth. She oozed arrogance.

    I on the other hand was confident. I know who I am, and what I expected of my team. In any conversation with my employees, I always asked what they needed from me. How could I help them best. Especially when I could tell they were stressed, or seeming like they felt deflated. I always made time for all of my 10 managers every day. Walking through the store, asking how they were. What they were working on. How could I help? What did they need? It was always about them. Without a team, you’re not successful. And I knew I couldn’t run a 13 million dollar store by myself. Impossible. I needed my 50 employees and their expertise.

    I was pissed the day my boss fired me. That was last year. For following her orders. But, in the back of my head, I always knew that would happen and that she had a vendetta against me. So, it was a blessing in disguise. I don’t miss her world. I despised every minute of it. She was a snake in the grass as most of them are.

    Thanks for sharing this! I enjoyed this one very much.

    1. Hi Katrina,

      Thank you for your very passionate comment. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed this article and found it valuable. It really does mean a lot to me.

      I am so appreciative of you sharing your story and experiences as an area manager. There will be so many people who will read this and will hopefully read your comment. I can relate and I know a lot more people will relate to you too. Hopefully people can learn from your story and use your experience as a lesson to learn from in the future.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Hi Tom,

    Another excellent post! I think every manager (or leader of any kind) should read your website! I can definitely attest to your first point; my favorite jobs and favorite bosses have been the ones who’ve gotten to know me on a personal level. Even in jobs where the work itself wasn’t fun, having a compassionate leader for a boss made all the difference!

    I’ve also seen how having a boss who’s great at communication and who takes the time to get to know their employees affects the team environment in general. It has been in those jobs that I’ve felt most like part of a team. The environment was more unified, more positive, and therefore much more productive in general (and had much less turnover).

    I’ve also worked on the other side, where out boss wasn’t such a great leader, didn’t bother to get to know us, and wasn’t great at communicating. In those jobs, the environment was petty, divisive but clique-y, gossipy, and extremely negative.

    It’s amazing what a difference having a great leader makes!

    1. Hi Jade,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found this an excellent article, means so much to me.

      I appreciate you saying that every leaders should read my material, I am humbled by your kind words. Thanks for sharing your expereinces with your past leaders too as there will be many people who can relate to you, and hopefully learn from you.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. being a highly effective leader has lots of responsibilities and actions they’ve got to watch how they act and treat others. Respecting the team and who they are as a person shows you care and can trust me.
    We’ve learned a lot here from low effective leaders, to highly effective leaders and how to do and what it looks like.
    We will put these skills to work with our business thanks, Tom.

    Cheers,
    Mathew&Deloris

    1. Hi Matthew/Deloris,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this article valuable and I hope that you do put the skills you learn into action.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Hi Tom,

    This is an excellent post that I think every manager should read. You’ve got great points here. I love the connecting part.

    You have to know your team, what makes them tick and what motivates them to work. There are team members who are opinionated and would like to share their ideas. There are others who just want to be told what to do and they happily follow.

    People think and act differently. So if you want to achieve a great result from your team, you should make an effort to know them.

    I know a manager who was just appointed because “there was no other choice”.

    Her incompetence and lack of knowledge is making the team suffer. They don’t trust her because most of what comes out of her mouth does not make sense.

    And to make things worse, she acts like she knows everything and would not listen to other people’s suggestion.

    In the end, the other manager is the one absorbing all the consequences… getting more workload as the other one cannot be relied on, team members always go to her because they get sensible answer.

    I’m sure that “big boss” who appointed that incompetent manager realizes her mistake by now but doesn’t want to admit that she made a mistake.

    The EGO of these people sometimes frustrates me.

    Maybe I should print your article and let them read it so they can learn from it too….hopefully.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Maria,

      Thank you for your very detailed comment. It means so much to me that you feel every manager should read my articles.

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences with the manager who was appointed because there was not other choice. I have actually been in the same position where I had to appoint a person (who I loved anyway) because there was no other choice. My boss would not allow me to look for another manager outside of the company. It is a horrible position to be in and we should never be put in that position with our backs against the wall.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. I’ve never been good at inpiring so I’ve been interested in learning more. This is great info you have shared to learn how to inspire. I especially need to learn to connect better with people. Thank you for sharing!!

    Can I use your tips at home with my family to help inspire them to help around the house?

    1. Hi Alyse,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that you found this article valuable.

      You absolutely can use what I share with your family. Leadership doesn’t just happen in the workplace, leadership happens in every single walk of life. People are people so if you can inspire somebody at work, you can inspire your child, husband, parents, cousins, nephews, nieces etc.

      Please do use what I share at home and I would love to hear how things are going with your inspirational journey with your family and friends.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hi Tom, I wish I had learned at school what I just learned from this article. I just realized that I have been a low performing leader all my life. But I can still change things. I do have a bad habit of never listen to people, but just “tell”. And that’s why I can’t build a relationship with people around me. I need to work on that one.

    By the way, I’m a big fan of the Real Madrid football team, and this reminds me of Z.Zidane, he is definitely a highly effective leader. He really inspires his team. We can see that the way they give everything on the pitch for him…

    Anyway, thanks again. Really learned a lot here.

    1. Hi Warren,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so humbled to learn your story and your honesty, means so much to me.

      You really can change things Warren, I have every confidence that you and everyone else can change things. I changed things in my life because I was a low performing leader in the beginning. So, if I can do it, anybody can.

      I am a HUGE Liverpool fan so I wasn’t very happy when you guys destroyed us in the Champions League final, but we are a lot better now. Zinedine Zidane and Jurgen Klopp are definitely great examples of leaders that we can follow.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. Hi Tom

    I really enjoyed this post, especially the first example of a bad leader – the guy who gave a presentation about himself! I bet he thought he was a great leader too..

    Finding out who people are and their individual stories not only builds trust but makes life so much more interesting!

    I lead a small team of Receptionists in a busy (normally!) holiday resort. Reception is a great place to work but is also super-stressful so we like to enjoy a good laugh whenever possible / appropriate.

    When I have new people starting, I like to share stories of mistakes I have made on Reception. They are quite hilarious (in retrospect!) and it also let’s them know that we are not expecting perfection – we just want them to be theirselves and connect with the guests.

    Best,

    Jean

    1. Hi Jean,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that you enjoyed reading this article.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences of leading a small team of receptionists as there will be a lot of people reading this article who can relate to you. Hopefully they can learn from you aswell as learning from me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. I have to agree that the mark of a great leader is someone who has “the ability to listen.” By listening to our team, we get to know their strengths and weaknesses as well as what motivates them to do better and what saps their energy.

    Just by listening and learning, we can avoid many future mistakes, i.e. we would be able to delegate responsibilities based on the skills each member of the team has based on our knowledge gained by listening, instead of randomly selecting people for each task.

    There is nothing worse than a self-centered, arrogant boss. No one enjoys being told what to do by them or working with them. So of course, productivity is going to suffer compared to being able to work ‘together’ with a highly effective leader.

    All good points.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really am pleased that you agree and that you found the article valuable.

      I appreciate you sharing your points and you are right, nobody enjoys being told what to do. We must inspire our people, not depress them or make them feel worse by dictating to them.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. Hi Tom,

    Great article! As you said it well, humility is one of the fundamental trait of an effective leader and those who are usually successful are the one who lead without title.
    Good communication is also important as its the process by which goals are set and team is inspired, motivated and encouraged.

    Trust and respect is something that is mutually earned, so aspiring and new leaders have to focus on this aspect too.

    Thanks for sharing this insightful article

    Cheers:)

    1. Hi Arno,

      Thank you for your comment. I;m glad that you found this a great article, means a lot to me.

      I couldn’t agree with you more that trust and respect is earned by highly effective leaders. It is not demanded like many low performing leaders do.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  12. This makes absolute sense. I actually experienced both types and I can say that with the right management, a person can find growth and inspiration. Things tend to work much smoother too!
    A selfish leader can even affect the business itself. I have seen this happen.
    Thank you for putting into details the type of person needed to build a great working environment.

    1. Hi Brendaliz,

      Thank you for your comment. I am so glad that this article makes absolute sense to you. I hope you can take what you have learned and put it into action.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences in working with both a leader and a manager. I am releasing a book called “Manager To Leader” on 31st January and I think you would gain a lot from it.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  13. What a great article. I wish my team leaders could read this. Actually, my team leaders are pretty good. What you said about getting to know your team is super important. The reason I agree with you is because everyone is different. If you approach me (who is a type A) the same way you would approach a more laid back person, you won’t get good results. Also, I like to work on my own and need little supervision. So if a team leader doesn’t know that about me and is a helicopter boss, it won’t work. I love that you talk about humility. It’s important because once I sense that you think you’re better than me, or you think you know everything, I lose respect for you. I’m so glad you wrote this article, and I’m going to tweet it.

    1. Hi Shalisha,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that you found this a great article.

      It’s great that the team leaders you work with are pretty good. Have you built up a strong relationship with them and trust with them too?

      A lot of people like to work on their own, I used to be one of those people when I was an engineer. But, I realised that working as a team is far better than isolating yourself. What do you think?

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  14. A very good article on how to inspire your team as a leader. There really is a big difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads the team while the boss commands.
    I would like to enable all employees to have a leader in management positions like the one you describe. One who knows how to listen, inspire, motivate, who sees in the worker a human, who encourages people to develop and progress through work processes.
    That is why such articles are very important. To raise awareness of both, employees and management representatives with them.
    I wish you all the best
    Nina

    1. Hi Nina,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found this a very good article, means a lot.

      I agree that the leader leads and the boss does usually command. It’s great that you want to take the principles from this article and put them into practice at you replace of work. I would love to hear how you are getting on with taking action and if you need any further help then please get in touch.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  15. Hey Tom,

    great post! I recently did a personality test and my personality was Protagonist type personality (ENFJ-T) which says I’m a natural-born leader, full of passion and charisma.

    But now I see that there’s much more to leading than being “the right person for the job”.

    Do you think personality can help though?

    Cheers!
    Dario

    1. Hi Dario,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that you found this a great article, means so much to me.

      Everybody is a born leader. I don’t know any leaders who were not born. Personality can help with leadership but it is not what leadership is about. Leadership is not about you, it is about others. Please remember that if you ever lead a team. It is not about you, it is about them. You are there to serve the team, not the team to serve you.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  16. Hey Tom,

    another great article you’ve written there. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic. Especially that last article resonated a lot with me, as the “being talked into a team leader position” sums up very well what I allowed to happen to myself in the past. Never really looked at it that way, or at least not at the implications… Thanks for drawing that out so clearly!

    In hindsight, I would say that taking up a role as a team leader is a little bit like thinking about becoming a mom or a dad. At some point you just feel you’re ready for it – or not. Both is fine, but one should respect that own “gut feeling”.

    It’s a very intrinsic motivation; and if it’s not (because you just “want” that child because your own parents talked you into it or so) it’s, just as you wrote above, a receipe for disaster. It won’t make you happy, nor will it make the people who depend on you happy; be it your team members and your own boss or your kids and your wife for that matter.

    Thanks for this wonderful post, Tom. I really enjoyed reading it!

    I wish you all the best,
    Chris

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that you found this article valuable.

      I couldn’t agree with you more that being a team leader, supervisor or manager is like being a parent. The principles are exactly the same as we need to be a leader for our children just the same as we need to be a leader for our team.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  17. Tom,

    “You do not always have to be on the higher ground to be great.” Those are words to live by!

    I love that you talked about humility as a trait of a highly effective leader. It’s so common for new leaders to take over a team and focus on themselves rather than their team members! Simply getting to know the team can make a huge difference in the way a leader interacts with them.

    I agree that inspiring a team (or anyone, for that matter) is about going beyond the words you say.
    It’s in your expressions, your body language, and your overall attitude. Connecting with others in a positive way is the best thing a leader can do to inspire a team!

    Thanks for this informative article! I enjoyed reading it!

    Cheers,
    Femi

    1. Hi Femi,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found this article enjoyable to read.

      Humility is a topic that doesn’t get discussed enough when it comes to leadership. It is also a leadership principle that isn’t practiced enough by our leaders. I want to change that.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  18. The right words I needed to read. I have just moved to a new team and all of it really resonates with me. It makes such a difference when you have a leader that inspires you, that sees you as a person and not just as a number.

    Communication with intention is the key, indeed, specially in this time we are living now (Covid-19). I think leaders have such an important role to play. Organisations need Highly Effective Leaders and it is in these moments of crises where you see who they are. Besides, it is so much pleasant to work in a team that has an inspired leader. It builds trust, synergy and the team get so much more done.

    Very inspirational words. It reminds each one of us the importance of communicating effective and inspire people that are around us, not just in our workplace but in all our relationships (family, friends, community.).

    Week-done.

    1. Hi TGP,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found this article valuable.

      It’s great that you have just moved to a new team, as this is an opportunity for you to put into practice the leadership principles you are learning. Even if you are not the formal leaders or manager of the team, you can still lead the team with your new skills.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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