A few years ago I began the habit of getting up earlier and writing in my journal, taking the time to be reflective, appreciative, and grateful. I went over my goals each morning and my values. I devoted time to reading stories and quotations that inspired me. Finding, reading, and journaling about these pieces of inspiration soon became an integral part of my morning routine, and my ability to live my day more intentionally and focused.
I gradually felt compelled to share these positive and uplifting stories that I had discovered with others. I came to the realization that most of us begin our days reactively and negatively, with crisis-driven news sites and television programs, or a pile of emails regarding the things that happened overnight (which are never good). After seeing the positive effects of beginning my day with inspiring and engaging content and stories, I thought I might be able to create that same experience for others.
The Friday Inspiration
I decided to start by sending a weekly email to the 30 people on my team at Acceleration Partners. The email was originally called “Friday Inspiration,” and I sent it out each Friday morning to the whole company.
My goal was simply to encourage our team to be inspired to achieve more, help them remove their self-limiting beliefs, and motivate them to become better. My leadership style is to help people build their capacity and improve their performance in a way that benefits all aspects of their lives rather than just focusing on their work responsibilities. As they improve in areas such as confidence, goal setting, time management and self-awareness, they become better at everything they do and higher performing all around.
The Positive Impact I Didn’t Anticipate
I figured my Friday Inspiration emails would likely be skimmed and even ignored, but I decided to keep sending send them anyway. To my surprise, employees immediately started writing back to me with positive reactions, and many told me they looked forward to the messages each week.
The weekly emails were having a noticeable impact within our organization, and I started to think there might be value for people outside of our company’s walls. This encouraged me to share the Friday Inspiration concept — both the emails and the feedback I received from my employees — with other CEOs who I believed shared similar values and would like the concept.
I suggested they try something similar themselves and even encouraged them to copy my emails if it was easier. Several CEOs took me up on my offer and began sharing my emails with their companies. Within weeks, they started telling me that they were receiving the same type of positive feedback from their employees that I’d received from mine.
At this point, I started to believe I was really onto something. Once again, I decided to take the critical step of just moving the idea forward, without having any idea (or expectations) of what would it would become. I changed the name of the weekly email to Friday Forward, and launched the new version to an expanded group of people outside the company.
Today over 20,000 people in more than 50 countries are receiving Friday Forward emails. Each week, 20 to 30 people send me a note telling me how the most recent Friday Forward message resonated with them; they often share very personal stories that show deep vulnerability with a stranger. Messages like that continue to inspire me. What I have come to realize is that this is the type of impact I want to have with the time I have left in this world. It’s my legacy and something that will hopefully last beyond my lifetime.
How to Inspire Your Own Team
It doesn’t take much effort for CEOs or people in leadership roles to have a positive impact on their own people or those outside their organization. Here are a few ideas on how to get started:
1) Start Writing: The more you write, whether it’s for yourself or your organization, the more your thoughts become clear; this makes it easier to share them with others. Even if you aren’t ready to start a regular Friday Forward, your writing can have value for your team, especially if you are authentic and share your vulnerabilities. You would be surprised what can inspire people.
2) Take Interest in People as Individuals: I’ve consistently found that when someone is struggling while at work, it’s often due to something happening outside of work. As a leader, you can help address the root cause of the problem rather than the symptom. Take the time to get to know the people working within your organization; understand their frustrations, hopes and dreams. This isn’t “fluff” or “soft”, it matters much more than you realize. It also drives performance.
3) Show, Don’t Tell: People emulate what we do rather than what we say. Leaders need to lead by example, whether that is being open to feedback, taking a vacation, putting family first, being transparent, respecting the chain of command or following established protocols. Set the example for the behavior that you want your employees to show you and you will have to talk about it far less than you think.
4) Communicate Vision and Values: A leader’s job is to set the vision for the organization and be constantly rallying employees around where the company is going and why that is important. It’s also essential to consistently reaffirm the company’s values and back that up with actions, rather than just words (See #3). This combination is what underlies a healthy company culture. It creates a foundation of truest and gets everyone is on the same page about the organization’s direction and decision-making.