Acclaimed international business coach Marshall Goldsmith in his book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” * (One of the top 10 best sellers for the last seven years), eloquently wrote how we tend to hold on to our beliefs and practices that we have valued from times gone by. He advocates that some of those business and personal beliefs may not be as relevant for us to advance in today’s environment. This includes how we derive our inspiration and motivation in a much changed world.

 The human condition has in its composition an element which lends itself to reflect with nostalgic affection from the past and draw inspiration from key figures in history. Kennedy, Gandhi, Churchill, Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and perhaps our own Gough Whitlam, to name just a few.

If you study their histories you will find in their respective lives they all have or had the power to inspire people to follow and believe in their various causes their legacies are etched into our memories.

So where do we draw our inspiration from today and why is there a perceived pessimism about life in Australia?  Which leads some people to crave for new thinking of how we get back to creating inspiration.

The emergence of popular modern culture promotes reality figures, media presenters and pop stars as almost demi-gods with almost slavish devotion being attached to them. They seem to have taken over from traditional leaders in our society such as political, business and other key figures in creating their own brand of inspiration and motivation something that does not necessarily sit well with traditionalists.

It would be wrong to suggest that there are not sections of our population who do inspire as a result of their continuous actions. There are many instances where great efforts are being made in everyday life, whose achievements are not championed as normally they are not deemed as news worthy or sensational for today’s media consumption.

We seem to have been rocked by a series of events (some national, others global) which are having a major effect on our vibrancy and confidence.

If we examine the facts, we might better understand our current position. In the last two decades Australia has had continuous economic growth with the result of strong increases in the population’s living standards. As with every generation the aspirations and expectations of people increase, in this period we have witnessed further anticipations of continued wealth.

It was inevitable that at some point we would suffer a downturn and living standards would fall, the catalysts for this being globalisation  and the Global Financial Crisis. Australians are finding if very difficult to accept the new reality of a more austere environment, having previously had the benefit of such a great lifestyle, directing their anger at politicians and other leaders etc.

Whether we have the misfortune to encounter another economic correction similar to seven years ago; which somehow blunts the population’s expectations and forces us to revaluate our lives and outlook. I am not convinced we can regain the same joie de vivire we once had and return to a path of inspirational behaviour which was hallmark.  What I think is possible is that pockets of people and organisations can re-establish respect and trust enabling the return of motivation, it will be a gradual process.

We have always had a begrudgingly respect for politicians (although many may be reluctant to admit it), seemingly that has been lost as the nation watches with distain at the discord which has developed within the parliamentary system. The thought arises that their behaviour is such that it masks a failure to successfully understand the new dynamics in our society.

In terms of companies and their leaders they are also bearing the brunt of anger as they are having to make unpopular decisions to adapt to a changed world. Where competition is fierce and survival is not guaranteed without significant fundamental change being made.  Signs have emerged that they are finding it increasingly hard to explain to their respective workforces the need for that change and to generate optimism for the future. This is a growing problem and exacerbated by the increase of the mobility of labour brought on partly by a sense of lack of motivation. Alarmingly recent statistics are indicating this trend is growing at an ever increasing rate.

Maybe a key to obtaining a breakthrough is an acknowledgement that we are trying to tackle a problem in the same manner as we have previously and it appears not to be working. I again refer to Marshall Goldsmith’s book which in my opinion describes our predicament perfectly.

The acceptance and adoption of a different way of leading and managing will be the keystone of any success achieved, preconceived notions can only hamper the process and must be countered with open and flexible attitudes. This in reality will be much harder in practice than written on paper after all some have operated within the same conventions for many years.

How do we attempt in management circles to invoke major change?

  1. Leaders and managers must transition from a “telling “ style to a more consultative method when explaining tasks and must remove the practice of micro-managing which tends to aggravate people.
  2.  The ability to be able to “read” the mood of your organisation in terms of morale and act on it if necessary, being visible and able to relate, communicate to people at different levels. If you consider you’re a leader “mean it” that is to show commitment and you will be rewarded by people around you.
  3. Ensuring your staff are trained and aware of wider issues surrounding the business such as client and market needs, their own self-awareness and how they relate to others under their responsibility; to communicate information and to lead to better understanding by workforces. The ability to influence people in a realistic and believable manner.
  4. Selection of new personnel must be conducted thoroughly to search for candidates who possess in addition to good technical skills their ability to collaborate and manage people.
  5. The days of excessive volatility of behaviour by leaders and managers are numbered and you will find staff will “walk” if they are exposed to it on a regular basis.
  6.  Consider delegating projects to staff who have never been chosen before demonstrating confidence in their abilities and building mutual trust.

The above pointers do not indicate that on occasions a leader or manager does not have to make tough decisions and that people are not accountable quite the contrary.

The only caveat is one must act as truthfully and honestly as that goes a long way to earning respect amongst teams whatever the decision taken. The key is to strive to win over Hearts & Minds”.

I am not for one second suggesting the points listed can be embedded easily or over a short space of time. You will probably suffer some setbacks but I passionately believe they form the basis to build or rebuild relationships appropriate to provide a platform for a new era for inspiration and motivation amongst your people.

What we all know that when leaders and managers strike the right vein whether they are in business or elsewhere people will follow as it can been witnessed since time immemorial.

As always happy to share views with others who might have a different perspective.

Ken Wood

Banyan Management Services Pty Ltd

*Marshall Goldsmith “What Got You Here Will Not Get You There”

 ISBN-10: 1401301304

 ISBN-13: 978-1401301309