Inspirational motivation

How to inspire your people in tough times

How do you provide inspirational motivation to people living with the constant insecurities engendered by the current economic climate?

How do you deal with downsized workforces populated with employees who suffer from any or all of the following negative emotions: insecurity, dread, apathy, passivity, carelessness, and resentment?

How do you lead people through change in times of extreme turbulence?

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Making tough decisions, implementing change, and telling people that this is the way it is - really isn't the same as giving them the inspirational motivation to accept how things are and getting them to work well.

As Michael Hammer - former Business Process Re-engineering guru of the last recession - now says: "The human side [of change] is much harder than the technology side and the process side. It's the overwhelming issue."




Daniel Goleman ["Primal Leadership"] has eloquently articulated the principle of a style of leadership that resonates with people - that speaks from the heart and offers a measure of re-assurance and certainty of conviction about the direction in which they are being led.

Here is an overview:


But how you do you translate that into action? How do you actually provide inspirational motivation for people? What are the keys?

Here are a number of perspectives that I feel offer a practical way of providing inspirational motivation:




(1) People will do anything if they accept the "emotional logic" - win the battle for their hearts as well as their minds.

See this perspective from warzone Afghanistan.



People may rationally understand why you need to implement major change - such as getting rid of people - cutting costs - reviewing and streamlining processes etc - but they won't feel any better about it - they won't automatically buy in to it.

And yet, in tough times people are capable of doing extra-ordinary things and of enduring previously unbearable privations - if their hearts are in it.

Having "their hearts in it" actually means that they are feeling a very deep and powerful emotional connection with some form of "greater good".

It means that they find - or are shown - some element of the mundane, tedious, scary and [in extremity] dangerous situation they find themselves in that transmutes their negative feelings into something positive that is deeply connected with some person, some group, some value or belief -something they hold very dear. This is a big key to understanding inspirational motivation.

A current and poignantly dramatic illustration of this is the serving soldier. At the time of writing, British forces are involved in "Operation Panther's Claw" - the current and to date largest British offensive against the Taliban insurgency near Gereshk in Helmand province Afghanistan.

inspirational motivation, master motivators, inspirational leadership,change management,change managers,change management training Having taken heavy losses and in the context of reported current briefings estimating anticipated losses [i.e. deaths] at 10% of troops in the frontline, a young soldier recovering from his injuries at Camp Bastion the British HQ said:

"…We don't care about the future of Afghanistan. We don't care about democracy, clean water, schools for girls or the political overview. All we care about now is each other and making sure that our mates get out of this alive".

I have also personally spoken at length with 2 active serving soldiers in Afghanistan - one a Commando who is a family member - and they both expressed it in very similar terms.


    So the first lesson for achieving leadership with inspirational motivation to find out what your people really care about.




(2) The human brain is "hard wired" for survival and self transcendence


From a physiological and neurological perspective current research into the structure of the human brain shows that our brains are literally and physically structured, evolved and/or designed for survival and self-transcendence.

"The brain has two primary functions that can be considered from either a biological or evolutionary perspective. These two functions are self-maintenance and self-transcendence. The brain performs both of these functions throughout our lives." Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg - Associate Professor in the Department of Radiology at the University of Pennsylvania.





(3) People work better together when they are allowed to socially interact with one another and are given supportive attention - "The Hawthorne Effect"

This insight was an unintended consequence of a major research project conducted between 1927 and 1932 at the Hawthorne Plant of the Western Electric Company in Cicero, Illinois.

This research project was not about inspirational motivation but an attempt to examine the physical and environmental influences of the workplace (e.g. brightness of lights, humidity) and later, moved into the psychological aspects (e.g. breaks, group pressure, working hours, managerial leadership).

However, the major finding of the study was that almost regardless of the experimental manipulation employed, the production of the workers seemed to improve! This is called the Hawthorne Effect.

The primary discovery was that the workplace is a social system. The Hawthorne researchers came to view the workplace as a social system made up of interdependent parts.

3 further general conclusions were drawn from the Hawthorne studies:

  • Individual production is strongly influenced by social factors - far more so than individual aptitude.
  • Informal organisation affects productivity - there is "a group life" among the workers - and the relations that supervisors develop with workers tend to influence the manner in which the workers carry out directives.
  • Work-group norms affect productivity - work groups tend to arrive at norms of what is "a fair day's work".


    Lesson number three: (a) they need your supportive attention, (b) recognise and work with and through the informal social structures of the workplace.




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(4) People will respond to their leaders efforts to connect with their emotional side

See this for an overview of how the man of nails found his heart - and became a better leader.



Andy Pearson founding chairman and former CEO of Tricon Global Restaurants Inc. [KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell] has recently undergone a huge change in leadership style. The new Andy Pearson, a man who is now in his mid-70s, has transformed himself into a new kind of boss who majors on inspirational motivation.

Having carved himself a decades-long reputation of ruthless, hard-nosed, numbers obsessed success in corporate America with companies such as Pepsi Co and McKinsey, he now feels that he has arrived at a personal point of change that he feels has universal significance…

Through working with colleagues at Tricom, Pearson experienced a Damascene conversion as he realised the importance of the human heart in driving a company's success - one person at a time - and how this kind of success can't be imposed from the top but must be ignited and nurtured through attention, awareness, recognition, and reward - true inspirational motivation.


    Lesson number four: if he can do it so can you!




(5) The need for recognition and approval is a fundamental human drive


Pearson realised [albeit rather late in life in my view!] that the need for recognition and that the need for approval is a fundamental human drive - and key to inspirational motivation.

He was also a big enough man [in my view] to change direction and style almost overnight.

Pearson's own re-definition of leadership is as follows:

"Great leaders find a balance between getting results and how they get them."


    Lesson number five: see lesson number four.




(6) The big leadership difference between being tough and being tough-minded


He now believes that it's less important to issue orders than it is to seek answers and ideas from below. He sees his job is to listen to the people who work for him and to serve them. He still believes in firing those who don't perform!

"Ultimately," Pearson says, "it's all about having more genuine concern for the other person. There's a big difference between being tough and being tough-minded. There's an important aspect that has to do with humility."


    Lesson number six: see lesson number four.




(7) Work with and through the informal social structures of the workplace.

Here are 5 key tips from [in my opinion] a genuine business guru.



Jon Katzenbach, CEO of Katzenbach Partners, has built a career out of cracking the code to inspire people. [The Discipline of Teams and The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization]

Katzenbach argues that the key to encouraging people via inspirational motivation has more to do with figuring out how to connect them emotionally to their work than throwing money or promotions at them.

He says that in every organisation, there are communities of common interest that exist. For example, people who smoke gather together wherever they can smoke; people of different gender and ethnic backgrounds tend to form communities.

It helps if you're tuned in to using some of the informal aspects of your organisation along with the formal.

Of course I appreciate that this is going take many directors out of their Myers - Briggs ENTJ profiled comfort zones!

It is all to easy for us to fall back on the formal elements that we can control - typical management stuff like changing objectives, changing programmes, changing incentives, changing structures, redesigning processes etc.

I know this and I am saying this because I have exactly the same tendency myself.

So all of this may change the cost structure and streamline the processes but it won't motivate your people.

To address the emotional challenge, you have to actively influence the informal interactions of the organisation, rather than sitting back and watching it or even worse, undermining its positive influence.

In my view, managing in this different world will put a premium on actively influencing the informal elements in ways that complement and accelerate the formal efforts.

Katzenbach highlights the following themes:

  • "Personalize the workplace"
  • It's all about making and demonstrating a personal commitment by getting involved and truly understanding what your staff are doing on a daily basis to make the workplace a productive and effective environment.

    The focus here is on the emotional connection you make with each individual - true inspirational motivation.

  • "Always have your compass set on pride, not money."
  • Katzenbach says that an emphasis on connecting with, learning from, and listening to your staff will repay itself many times over. You must value their ideas and their knowledge and have confidence in their ability to get the job done.

    It shows that you really care and that they really matter. Again, it's the little things you do every day and demonstrate through your own behaviors that make the difference in establishing pride throughout the organization.

  • "Localize"
  • Get down as far down in the organisation as possible. Getting to the frontline employee and understanding how he or she thinks and acts, works, and behaves is critical. Knowing family ties and engaging in community events outside the workplace can also prove enormously beneficial.

  • "Make your messages simple, direct, and meaningful."
  • When speaking to your staff, make your messages simple, direct, and meaningful. Always clarify what matters and why it matters.

  • "Find the Master Motivators"
  • A practical way to do that is to go right down to the front line and find what Katzenbach calls the master motivators who are already recognized for their unique ability to gain the emotional commitment of their people those intuitively provide inspirational motivation - those who intuitively make better use of informal networks and communities of common interest than most good managers do.

    No matter how bad things are, there's a master motivator down there who is taking care of his people by focusing them on the work they have to do each and every day, and finding a way to make them feel good about it.

    Katzenbach suggests that if you can find a handful of those, they're very insightful about what can work under today's difficult conditions.



    Lesson number seven: Your front line staff have the answers and the solutions - (a) spend time with them, find out what really matters to them personally and find ways of linking that to the tasks in hand; and (b) find the "informal leaders" - those who intuitively provide inspirational motivation to their people and who connect with their people and work through them.




(8) Final thoughts…


Front line staff really do have all the answers and the solutions

From my experience, I agree with everything Katzenbach says about inspirational motivation. In my own work I have found time and time again that the answers to the most challenging business issues, project and programme failures and performance problems always - without exception lies with the front line staff - those directly involved in "doing it".

Also, the creative solutions and innovations are to be found there as well.

All it takes, in my experience is the time, courtesy and empathic listening to the people at the "coal face" to find out what the issues are and also to discover what motivates them individually and from that to derive and provide the inspirational motivation they need.

Recognising different definitions about success - people are motivated by different things

It is important to recognise that every person has a different definition of success - and that's not necessarily about climbing the greasy pole or about money.

For a lot of people success and inspirational motivation is tied more to their family or their community or something else in their personal lives. Everyone has a different definition of success.

Finding what has meaning for the individual and linking that to the task in hand

It's all about finding something that is local and meaningful to a worker emotionally and connecting them to that and the task in hand that is the true source of inspirational motivation.

Work through the "master motivators" in your organisation

Find those people in your organisation whose whole focus is, 'I have 12 people working for me. I have to keep them feeling good about what we have to do here. That's what I do.'

Katzenbach says that understanding what they do in this regard and how they do it is incredibly helpful when you're trying to provide inspirational motivation to your people and extend the emotional connections that can mobilise critical behaviours during difficult times.


    Lesson number eight: the key to inspirational motivation - and how to inspire your people in time tough times - really is to be found at the front-line in your organisation: with those who produce and deliver.

8 FREE Introductory Lessons from Practitioners Masterclass - HERE




Recommended practical resources


Dick Axelrod, the co-founder of US based Axelrod Group Inc [a consulting firm that pioneered the use of employee involvement to effect largescale organisational change] has made these resources available free of charge. I highly recommend them to you, they are brief, succinct and very powerful, and capture the practical application of the themes explored in this section.

Axelrod says:"Despite the best of intentions, leaders are still employing change processes that produce disengagement. Creating an engaged organisation requires leaders to choose a strategy that, by its very nature engages people."

    How to engage people when you don't have time [Axelrod]

    3 Faulty assumptions:

    (1) Get people to care by creating a burning platform - When faced with a burning platform, people often choose self-preservation over the common good.

    (2) Get people to care by creating buy-in - The term buy-in is in the language of buying and selling, not the language of motivation, care and commitment.

    (3) Get people to care by finding the right combination of incentives. The problem is, people are not rats.


    3 Rules of thumb for getting people to care about what you find important:

    (1) Find out what is important to the other person.

    (2) Support others in achieving their goals.

    (3) Share what you care about.

Themes covered in these resources include:

- When engagement disengages...
- Creating dynamic energy producing meetings
- What to do when your organisation doesnt have time
- Overcoming obstacles to engagement
- How to get people to care about you find important


How to get people to care about what you find important


- a series of articles and resources.




For a slightly different perspective - take a look at this review by R.Meldem of Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith's book:

The Wisdom of Teams


Meldom says: "Most of the time, I work in a so-called team environment. I realized that putting people together and calling the group a team wasn't enough to transform individuals into team members. I chose to read "The Wisdom of Teams" to find out how to allow for a hot group to emerge.




Additional motivation resources on this site:


Define Motivation - Understanding the inner drivers

Motivation in the workplace - People are motivated when they are inspired

Motivation Theories - Getting people to take action

Maslow's hierarchy of needs - A paradigm shift

ERG Theory - Practical application to leading change

Herzberg Motivation Theory - Satisfied and motivated

Acquired Needs Theory - Goal seeking achievers

Process theories of motivation - Personal needs drive behaviour

Employee motivation techniques - How to achieve peak performance

Myers Briggs Personality Types - Why so important




Additional communication resources on this site:


Business as usual - Managing change in the workplace

Barriers to effective communication - Do the you feel it?

Effective workplace communication - Say what you mean

Theory U: leading from the future as it emerges

Open Space Technology - How to create inspired meetings

How to give negative feedback - Without destroying the other person

Toxic leadership - How to spot it and how to avoid it




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Leading your people through change, putting it all together and managing the whole messy business


The primary causes of failure in change initiatives are all people related, and to do with emotions. So change leadership requires some very special qualities in the person[s] leading the change - not least the ability to provide inspirational motivation.

This is more to do with “being” than “doing”. What you do, and how you do it will be largely determined by how you are as a person.

Change is an emotional business. The failure to address the human impacts of change is at the root of most failed change initiatives. It is not enough just to “manage” change; people need to be led through change.

Change is a messy business fraught with complexity, multiple factors and many things that can, and usually do, go wrong. There are 3 broad areas that need to be included in any successful change initiative, namely:

  • Leadership that directly addresses the transitions and emotional dimension of those impacted by the change, and provides inspirational motivation
  • A change model and methodology that covers the multiple factors that must be addressed
  • Action management that shows and assists people with the specifics of exactly what is required of them

inspirational motivation, master motivators, inspirational leadership,change management,change managers,change management training These are addressed in the "Practitioners Masterclass" which takes a holistic view of the key areas and shows you how to put all this into practise.

And all of this is examined, co-related and integrated with the other key areas leading your people through change, putting it all together and managing the whole messy business.

To equip yourself, stay one step ahead with the tools and processes that will enable you to manage the messy stuff - check out the Practitioners' Masterclass [or click on the image to the right].

8 FREE Introductory Lessons from Practitioners Masterclass - HERE




Organisational change is inseparable from personal change


John Kotter has said that the scale and pace of change that is impacting organisations now is such that it cannot often be planned for and it increasingly pushes leaders (and followers) beyond their own capacity to handle it.

This scale and pace of change requires adaptive solutions.

However, an adaptive response to change is only possible when we have either the personal capacity to do this, or have the self improvement resources to help us.

The inherent (and flawed) assumption in most training and work-related attempts at encouraging personal change (in support of organisational change) is that it is skills based, in other words we can be taught to change.

Whilst it is true that we can be taught, generally we won't change.

We can't change because of our "immunity to change" or inner resistance.

Managing Personal Change - Resources HERE




Putting all this into practise





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