The Unlikely Key to Inspiring Your People

The Unlikely Key to Inspiring Your People
THE BIG IDEA: Inspiring others doesn’t require charisma; it asks us to relate to our fellow human beings. To become more effective at moving people, improve your ability to take another person’s perspective.


Robert was appointed CEO of a regional chain of banks three years ago.

As an executive of this financial institution for over a decade, he knew the strengths and weaknesses of his organization when he took the helm.

He was excited about his company’s potential, passionate about improving his organization’s culture, and saw ways of capitalizing on market opportunities.

Now, after three years at the helm, without seeing any measurable improvements in his company’s performance, his enthusiasm is fading. (And his board is questioning their decision.)

Robert wonders: Am I not the change agentthe inspiring leaderI saw myself to be? He can’t help feeling like he’s letting himself, his team, and his board down.

Thankfully, all is not lost for Robert.

Inspiration Starts with Vision

First and foremost, Robert must make sure he has established a compelling vision for the future.

Without this image of what his banking business can become, he has little chance to bring his organization together and collectively move it in a positive direction. He has no way of getting his people excited about the future possibilities.

As it says in Proverbs, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

A compelling vision starts with a big idea. If you need help clarifying your big idea, read this.

The Key to Moving People

A primary role of the leader is to move people, to inspire positive action in a desired direction.

This is where Robert needs help. He needs to get his vision to stick, to sell the vision to his organization so that they are inspired to realize it through consistent action.

The key to moving people is not through overt persuasion or coercive means; those methods have deleterious long-term effects.

Instead, the secret to moving people is to be able to take their perspective.

Perspective taking allows you to see the world from another person’s point of view and to speak to them from their viewpoint.

The idea is simple enough, however, in practice, most people don’t do it often enough. Our egos are conditions to see the world through our own lens.

Three Vital Perspectives

Right now, as you read this, you can be aware of multiple perspectives.

Notice your own thoughts and feelings as you’re reading. This is your first-person perspective.

As you read these words, you’re also interpreting what we’re trying to communicate. This is the second-person perspective.

Where are you right now? Become aware of your environment: other people, lighting, temperature, sounds, and so on. This is the third-person perspective.

We are always experiencing the world from at least these three perspectives.

Perspective taking as a skill requires us to consciously take the second-person perspective in our communications with others.

How to Build Your Perspective-Taking Ability

Here’s a simple practice to help train yourself to take the role of others:

  1. Decide whose perspective you’re going to take. It could be an employee, a board member, a peer, or a customer.
  2. Allow yourself to be curious and let go of wanting to judge this exercise.
  3. Imagine that you are this person. As fully as you can, step into their point of view.
  4. Look out at your environment. What does it look like? What do you notice? What do you see? What do you think? What do you believe? How do you feel?

Maintain this perspective for two minutes. To help integrate what you’ve learned, invest a few minutes reflecting on the experience: What did you learn about the other person? What did you learn about yourself? Did you pick up a new perspective?

Becoming a More Inspiring Leader

Imagine if you practiced this exercise at the start of the day, before an important meeting, or before communicating your vision to a key team member.

Might you discover a superior way of communicating your ideas, of making them more meaningful to the people you’re trying to move?

When you feel like someone understands you, don’t you feel more connected with them? Doesn’t understanding help establish trust? And isn’t trust the foundation for getting people to work well together and move toward shared results?

Follow this procedure at least twice per day until perspective taking becomes effortless.

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