Be The Lore
Inspiration starts with … You.
We love stories about others who inspire us. Because stories about those kinds of people allow us to imagine that we’re just like them. It’s why we watch sports. Buy People Magazine. It’s why we have heroes.
Your employees are no different. They seek to be inspired. At work, too. They thirst to feel the vicarious thrill of being part of an organization led by someone they’d like to be more like. With courage, wisdom, tenacity and tenderness they wish they had. About whom they can tell tales of admiration to their families and friends. With whom their being associated makes them feel special. And proud. With you!
The saddest truth, however, is that so few people are fortunate enough to reside in organizations where such a force exists. Maybe that’s why so few businesses are truly extraordinary. Because the seat of the head “story-maker” is empty. The void there is one of the main reasons I contend that the Job at the Top is seldom done well enough.
So, your Job at the Top includes giving them stories. Of cleverness, heroism, selfless commitment and caring. To tell others. Stories that allow them to imagine they’re just like you. And stories that inspire them actually to be like you. By your consciously seeking opportunities to demonstrate, in the extreme, what your business stands for and how you’d like them to be. It’s up to you, too, to be the lore they need. And the leader they swell with admiration to serve.
But be careful. Stories cut both ways. They either raise you on a pedestal, which then you have to maintain. Or if chosen in error, can flatten you: bloody nosed and left alone in the parking lot at dusk.
The stories you want are the ones that emphasize alignment with the business principles you want reflected by everyone else. In their own choices and behaviors. And that don’t waiver from that guideline. Avoid the ones that exult only yourself and have little to do with your organization. The right stories are about you serving your business, not yourself.
Take time after every one to clarify the lesson you want learned. Find time in the time you reserve each and every week to be alone thinking about your role in your business each and every week. And compare yourself with others who have done theirs in exemplary fashion. It’s no mystery why Gen. George Patton stood in the turret of the lead tank on assault, chrome battle helmet gleaming in the sun. Riding crop held high at salute. It’s no mystery why Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, became the ultimate “fun guy.”
Both acted consciously to inspire the replication of their own devotions to the principles of their organizations.
Then start identifying opportunities where you can demonstrate extreme alignment with how you want your business to be. Don’t fear going overboard. As long as you’re jumping off the right side of your ship. With the intention to inspire your employees, customers, suppliers, business partners, banker, investors – and yes, even your competitors’ employees!
Be The Lore. Give them what they need. Plus … it’s a lot of fun!