Looking for Inspiration? Listen…

‘Where your attention goes, your energy flows’ is a mantra I like to beat into participants on my training courses. ‘Notice what you notice’. ‘Life is a mirror – it reflects back what it sees in you’. These pearls of wisdom are normally followed by a strict lecture on the perils of a negative attitude. Threats of poor performance, few friends and an early death!

And I love it when participants tell me they’re inspired, that they see things differently and that they are going back to work to crack some of the tough nuts that have been causing such grief.

So, who is inspirational? Well, who gets a clap at the end of the day and quickly collects evaluation sheets that confirm just how truly wonderful she is before she’s off to immerse herself in more fascinating learning and high-level organisational challenges. Maybe it’s the Trainer.

Or is it the participants who go back to work armed with some new knowledge, some courage, some honed skills, perhaps even an action plan or learning log? Back to the factory floor, the lab., the office. Back to the friends who hope the training course went well, the hard chaw with his cynical remarks, the woman who went for the same promotion and is now nursing a grievance.

They go back and put their heads down. Not talking about motivation, but finding ways to tap into their colleagues’ enthusiasm. No mention of the word ‘leadership’ but setting an example, day after day. No talk of courage or emotional intelligence. ‘Values’ and ‘strategy’ rarely get an outing. But all the while they observe, align, encourage. Finding opportunities to build relationships, share challenges, give feedback. And when their erstwhile trainer is four or even 24 training courses further on, they are still there, making things incrementally better. Sticking with it.

The longer I train, the more I am inspired by ‘ordinary’ course participants – at all levels – who take the models, examples, theories, case studies and role plays and use them to make a difference in the real world. Many of their stories are never told.

But sometimes – especially where I’ve discussed a difficult situation with a participant – I’ll get an email. “Remember me? Well, here’s what I did…”. And sometimes, I have the great luck to meet up with former participants – perhaps on a follow-up course or on a visit to their organisation. And then the stories come out – what they tried, what worked, what didn’t.

Like Jenny – A girly girl in a very male organisation. A great performer but she found it hard to be taken seriously. Following a 3-day training course, she made a list of 48 ideas that she’d picked up on the course and tried every single one of them! Serious mettle that got her the right sort of attention.

Or Charles – who works in a massive bureaucracy for a boss who is rude, disorganised and unappreciative. “It’s the first time I’ve had to work for a boss that I don’t like”. He told me, adding that he saw this as a challenge. (and I was teaching him about attitude?)

Dermot – who read a complex situation with great subtlety, adopted a long- term view and day-by-day built on ways to motivate a team which was just waiting to see off yet another manager. Quality has soared and the team is becoming more and more self-directed.

Hazel who, in the face of massive resistance and little support from her organisation, confronted an employed who had long been under-performing and who is now producing acceptable work.

Pierre, a high-flyer in a massive electronics company who, after a time management course, put his family firmly at the centre of his world and built the rest around it. Everybody, including his company, was the better for it.

So let’s hear it for the participants on our training courses. Those who come in enthusiastically as well as those who let you know, just by walking in the door, that they would rather be anywhere else. They all have their stories. For inspiration, all we have to do is listen.