Friday Pulse: When we talk about inspire, the word ‘vision’ often
gets thrown into the mix. How would you distinguish inspiration from
A vision is an idea. Inspiration is the desire to act on that. It’s a
more active word that means to breathe life into something.
We can be inspired by an idea, but we can also be inspired by the way
people behave, by things bigger than ourselves – like nature and the awe
and wonder they create. We get inspired by people doing incredible
things, which is why we love watching the Olympics and sports, or why we
go to art galleries. Inspiration is bigger than just an idea.
So, how do you inspire somebody, especially in a work context?
There must be authenticity but there also has to be a sense of
contribution. It’s the feeling we get when we're serving. Sometimes
it’s someone simply showing us a pathway towards being better. Inspiring
doesn't have to be a huge thing. You can be inspired by the small
In the Friday Pulse tool, we suggest people share their successes once a
week and not to celebrate just when something of significance happens,
but to look to keep each other inspired by sharing the small wins too.
People have to see the impact that they're having, and that doesn't
mean saving the world. It just means they need to see the impact
they're having on customers or other teams within the organization. We
need to know what we're doing is contributing and making a difference.
Is being inspired about finding your own meaning in work?
It's your definition of meaning. There are general themes about what
people find worthwhile. Yet, ultimately, it’s going to be individual.
Some studies have shown that working on a checkout in a supermarket can
provide a lot of meaning because of the daily interaction with customers
and witnessing the difference in a person’s day. But that doesn’t
necessarily bring meaning to everyone. Some people are happier with the
backend stuff —finance, legal, HR — so it really comes down to the
different expectations people have for themselves and the meaning they
We're extraordinarily social animals. In our evolutionary history, if
you were on your own, you were dead because you were outside of the
protection of the tribe. That’s where inspire and meaning fit —they’re
things that connect us together. Whether it’s religion or a fandom, we
naturally find those that have similar interests to us.
Investing in relationships is really important because we get inspired
by the love and concern we feel for other people. And, because we care
about someone, it changes what's important to us and it changes what we
do. I often emphasize this to workplaces.
When team relationships get going, you can have different teams
inspiring each other and different relational channels between people.
Inspire is in the purpose. When organizations are obsessed with the
dollar, people are unlikely to feel inspired about working there.
It's also time for organizations to get on the right side of history on
several issues — climate change, Black Lives Matter, gender equality.
People are seeking organizations that do because we’re instinctively
proud of people when they behave well in the world and, increasingly,
people are expecting their organizations to do good.
It seems that there’s an element of challenging the status quo that
is implicit in inspiration. Does that apply to work as well?
Stability is also good, and sometimes you don't have to break things
that are working. But there's always room for betterment. It doesn't
have to challenge the status quo, but there are bits that need tearing
down. If we look at things like thorny issues, like diversity in Black
Lives Matter, or #MeToo movements, there's absolutely cultures that
need challenging and moving on.
How do you set up an inspiring environment in the office?
Co-creating your company values is a good start.
Becoming a climate-positive team, investing locally – those sorts of
things make a big difference.
And investing in your people?
As a leader, it's not just seeing what a person does now, it's seeing
their potential and being open to them developing. It's inspiring when
people want you to be your best.
It makes a different starting point when you go, "Let's co-create our
values and get to know each other's strength. Let's all have a role in
it, so we see ourselves as part of it." It's a different form of
leadership, but it then means you don't do the hard work later of
getting everyone on board.
The mistake some organizations make is that they have a long list of
values. So, we often say to teams, "Which ones are your core values?
Which of the organizational values do you hold dear?" And so, you're
interpreting it and making it a little bit your own, and there’s still
How do you stay inspired when you're exhausted with sprints and
Well, you can't spend your life at the mountain top. You got to come
down and dangle your feet in the water and feel un-pressured. It's
balance. It's restoration. It's renewal.
It’s important to gift yourself time to reflect before you head onto the
next thing — helping to put things in perspective and keeping you
Getting out of the humanness of existence and reconnecting with
something bigger really helps put things in perspective. It's something
we have encouraged more than ever since lockdown and no longer
experiencing the chitchat at the water cooler or social coffee breaks.
People underestimate the un-importance of practically everything. And
that life, in a way, is identifying the vital few things that are
precious, valuable and important. Inspiring is about that – it's about
helping to identify the vital, and the things that give you vitality.