A Source of Inspiration
A light was on in one office, even though most of the other offices had been dark for hours. The manager continued to work in the silence of the empty building, reviewing reports, studying numbers, responding to messages and emails that others would not read until the next morning. There was so much to do, so many responsibilities and so many decisions that would wait for the manager’s guiding hand.
The silence was broken as the manager was startled to see one of the employees standing at the door. The employee knocked hesitantly, one foot in the office and the other still in the hallway. “May I come in for a moment?” asked the employee.
“Of course,” smiled the manager, leaning back in the chair. “What are you doing here so late?”
“I had a lot of work to do and I wanted to catch-up,” said the employee. “If I get behind then it could impact our customers, and I don’t want that to happen. It’s my responsibility, and I want to take care of it. I know that’s what you would do.”
“You’re probably right,” the manager said with a laugh. “So what made you stop in here?”
The employee approached the desk, sat down in one of the chairs beside it and said, “I wanted to ask you a question.”
The employee began, “You always work so hard, and you always take care of us. You come in early. You stay late. No matter how much you have to do, you always take time to talk to any one of us when we need you. You are so busy taking time for us during the day that you have to stay late at night to catch up on your own work. Yet, you never complain. You make us want to work harder and do better, and you give us every opportunity to be successful. You are an inspiration to the rest of us, so what inspires you?”
The manager’s eyes widened, “Wow, well that was quite a surprise. I appreciate the kind words and admit that you completely caught me off guard.”
“Well?” persisted the employee, “What is your source of inspiration?”
The manager was silent for a moment, carefully contemplating the response. Then the manager stood up and said, “follow me.”
As the manager and the employee walked down a row of cubicles, the manager started to point into them one by one. The cubicles belonged to the colleagues of the employee. “This person is a single parent and comes to work each day to support two children. Those children need someone to look up to, someone to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. This person doesn’t work for me, this person works for them.”
The manager paused at the next cubicle and said, “This person is a grandmother who is working days so she can pay for her college education at night. She doesn’t need a degree and it won’t make any difference for her career. She is already past retirement age and she could quit at any time. She wants that degree to make her children proud and to give her grandchildren someone to look up to. She doesn’t work for me, she works for them.”
The manager moved to the next cubicle and said, “This person is overqualified for the job. It would be easy to leave for another company, probably get a promotion out of it and earn better pay. Why doesn’t this person leave? After eleven years working with the same group of people, it is like a family. This person doesn’t work for me, this person works here for all of you.”
The manager paused at the next cubicle and said, “This person has a family to support. Two kids in school, a mortgage, two car payments, and a whole host of obligations that comes with taking care of a family. Needless to say, you know that this person doesn’t work for me.”
The manager pointed down the line of cubicles, “That young man is engaged to be married, and he is saving up to buy their first home. That next person has a daughter in college. The next one wants to build a career out of this experience. The one after that wants to be a musician and only does this job to earn enough money to pay the bills.”
Walking into the corridor, the manager paused and smiled as the custodian came around the corner. “This person barely speaks our language, but comes to work every day when everyone else has gone home. More than half of the money earned will go to family members who do not even live in our country, while this person keeps only enough to pay for food, shelter and transportation here every day. This person comes into my office and takes away my trash, not for me, but because it is what needs to be done to earn the money that goes to a family that lives hundreds of miles away.”
“And then there is you,” said the manager with a big smile. “You have your own reasons for coming in here every day. When I need a source of inspiration, all I have to do is look around me. I am surrounded by it. Inspiration comes from recognizing what is important to the people around you and making it your own. If I can feel the dedication that these people feel for their children, for their families, for their hopes and dreams, then I have all the inspiration that I need. They are inspired by their own sense of purpose, and I am inspired by them. Just as you believe that you are inspired by me, I am inspired by you.”
Words of Wisdom
“Inspiration may be a form of superconsciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness – I wouldn’t know. But I am sure it is the antithesis of self- consciousness.” – Aaron Copland
“Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation.” – William Arthur Wood
“Keep your fears to yourself, but share your inspiration with others.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
John Mehrmann is a freelance writer and President of Executive Blueprints Inc., an organization devoted to improving business practices and developing human capital.www.ExecutiveBlueprints.com provides resource materials for trainers, sample Case Studies, educational articles and references to local affiliates for consulting and executive coaching. www.InstituteforAdvancedLeadership.com provides self-paced tutorials for personal development and tools for trainers. Presentation materials, reference guides and exercises are available for continuous development.
Published with permission by All Choral Works