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Leadership – How to Improve your IQ (Inspiration Quotient)

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I’m currently working on a project to improve a global organisation’s communications.  Supporting better – and more effective -leadership.  My strategy has been to move away from a ‘policing’ role towards something more positive.  I was seeking inspiration this morning and then it hit me: we need to raise the inspiration to information ratio.  Talking it through with my husband and business partner Bob, we created the terms ‘Inspiration Quotient’ and the ‘Inspiration to Information Index’.

Your Inspiration Quotient

Sponsored Cyclist ex-nurse Barry (source: tprf.org)

Sponsored cyclist ex-nurse Barry (source: tprf.org)

The toughest gig I’ve ever delivered was to a group of leaders in the health profession.  Just before a major reorganisation. They were not happy.  And I was their “inspirational speaker”.  No pressure then…

What I wanted them to experience was their own inspiration quotient.  Being in touch with what inspires us at home, or at work is vital.

I showed them pictures of nurses around the world giving up their time to fundraise and bring food, clean water and eye-care to the poorest parts of the planet.  Pictures of happy, well-fed children, getting a good education as a result of these people’s’ dedication.

niger_girl_at_blackboardThe reaction?  Stoney faces in the audience.  I wasn’t getting through.  “Ah well… at least they weren’t heckling… “ the ex-BBC event MC reassured me: “..they’re a tough audience.”

My personal inspiration quotient includes pictures of my family and a stunning calendar with a different floral picture for every day of the year.  I  have a window to look out on the world from my office. I can wave to passers-by.  I also have a sense of inspiration from within – based on the meditation I do when time permits – and a sense of gratitude for how good my life is.

Yes, I know how this sounds.  Your inspiration might be very different – sports, the arts, volunteering, walking the dog.  Whatever works for you is great.

St. John Eye Hospital, Jerusalem

St. John Eye Hospital, Jerusalem (stjohneyehospital.org)

So what does this have to do with leadership communications?

The ‘Inspiration to Information Index’ is about conveying more than information.  If leadership is about motivating people into action, then we need to find the words – and the emotions – to generate that action.

Inspiration communicates emotion.  It expresses the purpose for action – why we are doing what we’re doing.  Why it’s important.  Why it’s urgent.

Inspiration communicates vision.  And it matters that we as leaders act and speak congruently.  It’s amazing how quickly people spot a fake.

The praise to criticism ratio

A key leadership task is to acknowledge the effort, results and learning in the team.  Much more often than you think.  To many more people than you think.

When you achieve a  praise to criticism ratio of 6:1 people believe that you’re being even-handed.

And I just know that many of you will read this and think something along the lines of “I can’t even remember the last time my boss praised me…”

That’s how bad it is at the moment.

Why does this matter?

I bet you’ve attended communications courses and learned something along the lines of “communications is two-way – you have to listen twice as much as you talk.”

That was 20th century teaching.

In the 21st century, communication is multi-directional and multi-channel.  Think of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  Or YouTube – the world’s most-used search engine.  Or the smartphones in your team’s pockets – with built-in high quality cameras.

Smile please

Smile please

If your staff aren’t happy they have a circle of influence of 250 people that they’ll tell – in detail and with illustrations – about what’s wrong. And who’s to blame (that’s you by the way…)

And despite the economic climate, your best people still have ambition.  And they do have career choices.

When you communicate your own passion for what you’re committed to, it rubs off on others.

My recommendation is that you apply these three easy steps regularly:

  1. Get in touch with your inspiration sources – and use them to nurture your own sense of purpose
  2. Look out for what’s working and start acknowledging the people who make effort, get results or share learning in your team
  3. Raise your Inspiration to Information ratio by communicating your passion for what you do and why you do it

So phrases like the ‘Inspiration to Information Index’ and ‘Inspiration Quotient’ are simply fancy ways for getting in touch with your inspiration and expressing it.  People need more positive emotions in their lives – at work as well as at home.  And leaders are the people who can get it out there.  So put a smile on your own face and you’ll be amazed at the difference in the people around  you – through your better leadership and inspirational communications.

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Author: Helen Caton Hughes

Leadership and Team Coach based on inspirational and practical tools. Works with leaders around the world; trains coaches to International Coach Federation standards. Passionate about finding best ways for leaders to inspire themselves and get the best from their teams

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