The most useful advice I’ve received from wise mentors is often found in forms most easily remembered. It’s because these mnemonic devices stick that they stay top of mind and ready to use at the right moment. The Four I’s origins have long been lost, but they’ve been imparted upon me early in my career and have become an invaluable tool lately for managing and growing teams to a high level of engagement.
The first I is Inspire. The key to finding and maintaining inspiration is to do work that is truly meaningful to you. We all have an opportunity to act and the world better, even slightly.
Finding meaning will get you through the ups and downs. A sense of meaning is needed when the work is challenging or mundane, lucrative or unrewarding, or even invisible. It is perfectly natural at times to long for meaning. Here are some situations everyone encounters and how to find meaning in them:
- If you are searching for how you fit in the big picture, ask yourself: “Who benefits from my work? What do they do and who benefits from their work?” You inevitably will find that, by only a few degrees of separation, your work is positively impacting the lives of people in extraordinary ways. Directly or indirectly, large and small, your work helps to save lives, end poverty, feed people, or heal the environment.
- If you are procrastinating or fearing the work facing you, ask yourself, “Who is counting on me? Who is counting on them? Is there anyone who is better equipped than me to do this work now, at this very moment? What can I do after this that’s even more meaningful?”
- If you are tasked with something you can’t see the meaning behind, ask your team and your leader, “How is this aligned with the mission?” Ask yourself, “How can I accomplish the mission in a better way?”
Through finding meaning, a highly-engaged team forms and shares a vision greater than themselves. And inspired team members understand how they, as individuals, contribute to make that vision happen.