An Unlikely Source of Inspiration

March 4th, 2014 by Kelly Kienzle

Cute Kitten

I always have cheesy wall calendars.  Every year, I don’t remember until January to buy a new wall calendar.  And then I’m left with paltry options like “Rainbows!” or “Justin Bieber Unleashed.”  And 2014 was no different.

Sometime in mid January I trekked to our local Barnes & Noble, scanned the detritus and brought home “Simplicity.”  It had a photo of boats on a calm, misty lake on the front cover.  How bad could that be?

Here’s how bad.  March’s photograph is of a wide-eyed kitten peeking out from behind a wall with a blurry umbrella in the background.  And it gets worse.  The quote is:

“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”

The author of this empty quote actually included his name, but I won’t compound his mistake by doing so here.

Ugh, I thought.  Maybe I could tape another photograph over it.  This blank piece of printer paper would do nicely.  Then, a visitor walked into my office, immediately noticed the new page and said, “Oh, how cute!  I love it!”

Now, the visitor was my 12-year old daughter who talks to guinea pigs, but the point I’m about to make still stands:

As a leader, it doesn’t really matter what inspires us.  What matters is finding what inspires our team.
  We already have the vision for whatever we want to achieve and that is inspiration enough.  The key is finding what inspires our team.  They are the ones who most need inspiration.

So how do you do that?  The answer is simply to ask them.  Sit them down individually or as a group and ask:

“What part of this plan is most inspiring to you?”

“What has inspired you in the past about our work?”

“How do you get inspiration for a new project?”

Listen to what they say, take notes and say “Thank you.”  Incorporate some of their ideas into your overall plan, which will then make it partially “their plan”.  As a result, you get a two-fer:

1) You now have a tailored list of specific ideas on how to inspire each individual on your team

2) By including some of their ideas, the plan now has multiple authors each of whom will be more inspired to perform

There is a bottom-line lesson here that I frequently talk about with my coaching clients:  If you don’t know something, ask your team.  It’s their perception of the problem, challenge, strategy, or reward that matters most anyway.  Because they are the ones who will need to address it.

And if it is wide-eyed little kittens that inspire them, then I have the perfect wall calendar for you.


“No more kittens.  Please.”

– Kelly Kienzle

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