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By Amy Franko

inspireHave you ever had someone in your life that makes you feel as if there’s nothing you can’t do? Someone who moved you to be more and do more than you ever thought possible?

That’s inspiration . . . it can be hard to describe, but we know it when we feel it, and we know it when we see what an inspired person or group of people can do.

When we have leaders who are inspirational, we become connected to them, we see the possibilities of what a team can do together, and we can create amazing results.

My good friend and customer loyalty expert Cindy Solomon taught me that it’s our job to be a spark of inspiration, to light that fire within the people on our team and those around us. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of leadership.

But most of us think of inspiration as something we’re born with – we’re either inspiring or we’re not. It’s actually a skill, and if you’re committed to becoming a leader, it will be one of the best skills you learn.

In this article I share some of the everyday ways you can build inspiration into your life and leadership path.

Inspiration is about intention, and it takes awareness of the words we use and how we respond to people. Recently, my sister emailed me about wanting to apply to nursing school, after a 13-year career in the human resources and compensation fields. First of all, I had no idea that she even had an interest in nursing, which was a lesson for me in making more effort to learn what’s important to the important people in my life.Honestly, my first reaction was that it was a crazy idea. That it’s going to take years for her to rebuild her career, that she had no idea what she was getting into, and on and on and on. (I hope she doesn’t read this post!) But after I turned it over in my mind a few more times, I realized that this is her dream; our dreams should propel us to take these leaps into the unknown. After all, I left my technology career six years ago to pursue my own dream of being an entrepreneur. By being intentional, I was able to see past my own reactions and get to what really mattered – that my role is to be a source of inspiration and support to her.

Choose to spend your time with people who inspire you. The days in my life that are the most productive and fulfilling are the ones where I get to spend time with people who inspire me. I had the opportunity to do that one day this week in three separate meetings, and it’s amazing how much that charges my batteries. Even after a 14-hour day, I was absolutely jazzed. I’ve learned that I almost never feel that way after a day of being in front of my computer. At least three days a week I plan my days to be around those who inspire me – my team, my customers, other entrepreneurs and leaders.

Build inspiration into the structure of your life and work. For me, the choice to spend time with people who inspire made me change how I structured my days. I now make it a priority to get out of my office three days a week to be with inspirational people.

Other things I do:

  • Each night, I write down three successes or things I was inspired by that day. It’s quick, and you’d be surprised at how that adds up over time.
  • I capture inspirational stories. I have notepads everywhere! Everyday people and situations inspire me. I share those stories with my team, and I often use them in public speaking or writing.
  • I create whitespace in my calendar every week. A completely jammed calendar doesn’t inspire me at all. (I can admit though, I’m a work in progress on this one!) For example, I’m writing this article on a day where I have zero appointments scheduled. That gives me the time I need to focus. Or, if I have a particularly busy week, I try to keep weekend activities to a minimum. Openness creates opportunity and inspiration.
  • I write lots of personal notes. There is such power in a personal note. The connection from that can’t be underestimated – you never know who you’ll inspire by reaching out to thank or recognize someone, or to let them know you are thinking about them.

I’m reminded of Maya Angelou’s words that say it all about inspiration:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Inspiration is everywhere around us if we’re open to it. As a future leader, you have the opportunity to be that spark for someone else!

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