Copyright 2019 Noah Cheek. All rights Reserved.
Last Friday I had the opportunity to facilitate one of my favorite days of the year, our 3rd annual Leadership is You, student leadership conference. As one of the founders and chair of the conference, it has been remarkable to see it grow over the past three years. I am always taken back by the amount of energy these 120 plus students have at the end of a six-hour day that covers a vast spectrum of leadership content.
As with any large event, frustrations and miscommunications occur that some times leave you wondering if the stress is worth the struggle. It all too often becomes about your own feelings and I have, at times, forgotten how important it is to take a step back and realize that this event is not about me. It is not about my frustration in navigating the political buoys and stroking staff egos. This event is about the students. This event is about promoting, for a relatively short period of time, the opportunity for students to push the boundary of their comfort zone.
This morning, I received the below message as an email forward from a student that has and continues to overcome obstacles on a daily basis simply to remain a college student.
“I went to the leadership conference today with L****. I really, really didn't have the time to go, but something inside me just pushed me to go. The day was incredible! Both L**** and I are speechless as to how inspiring the speakers were. The speakers were so uplifting and encouraging. I really, really needed that. I am so glad that you told me about it. I would highly recommend that conference to any student in the future. They had us really thinking deeply about our lives and where we are going and how to get there. I think I learned more form the two speakers that I saw in one day than I have learned in my whole life from anyone. Thank you so much for encouraging me to go. It really, really was life changing -- at a time when I really need it most.”
(Note: I am not the professional staff member that encouraged this student to attend the conference, but I am so glad that the staff member did.)
This is why I do what I do. As much as this student needed to be at our conference on Friday, I needed to receive this note. I needed the reminder that it is not about me. It is about her. That what I can do every day, no matter how large or small, has the ability to create an impact for that individual that I may not have the immediate perspective to recognize. It brings me joy knowing that an event that I could help facilitate will be an unforgettable moment for this student.
Actively seek perspective. What may seem insignificant to you could be a dramatic and impactful moment for that individual.
Studies have shown that we are extremely limited in actually motivating other individuals. Yet, main stream media and advertisements try to paint a different picture. Everything is about finding the quick and easy solution to your problems. They focus on having priorities that do not lead to happy lives.
The fact is that we are not able to motivate others. I cannot motivate you to get to the gym, or apply yourself academically or proactively work towards a goal that has been on the horizon for far too long.
What I CAN do is inspire you. I can inspire you to create specific goals that are observable, measurable and repeatable. I can inspire you to get the most out of your education. I can inspire you to challenge yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. But, I can only foster an environment of inspiration if I am able to successfully create an environment that allows students (or anyone) the opportunity to be engaged.
There in lies the boundary of my influence. And it's scary. We all want to be able to instill success into the people we work with...at least I hope you do. But the reality is that we can only create this environment that allows individuals the opportunity to be inspired. To feel safe enough that they stretch the limit of their comfort zone. This is where growth takes place.
When people in the workplace are not performing to the levels of your expectations, instead of looking for quick fix, temporary solutions on how to "motivate" them, perhaps take a step back and evaluate the environment that you have created. Do your students/co-workers/employees have the opportunity be in engaged in their work? Make the conscious decision to give them this opportunity and see what happens.
I am passionate and write about personal development, leadership, education and healthy lifestyles. I work in higher education and I am committed to being an outstanding mentor and professional in my field.