Creating inspiration, part 2: make it relevant to your audience

An audience listening very carefully

In a time of change, your ability to create inspiration will draw people to you, motivate them to stay, and encourage them to create better results.

There is no fixed template for how you do this — but just as every great painting is formed from the same basic colours, and every great piece of music from the same basic notes, so every great vision is formed from the same basic building blocks.

The second of these blocks is to make your vision relevant to your audience.

This is partly about speaking in language they understand and partly about appealing to principles they believe in.

But mostly it is about creating something deeper. As Henry Ford put it:

“Nobody at work is apathetic except those who are in pursuit of someone else’s objective.”

This building block is not simply about getting your audience to buy-in to your objective. It is about showing them that they have an objective which happens to overlap with yours.

You achieve this by empathising with your audience, rationally and emotionally:

  • What are they thinking about?
  • What are they feeling?
  • What are their hopes, fears, and priorities?
  • Do they want a challenge?
  • Do they want to feel heroic?
  • Or do they simply want to feel safe?

Once you know these answers there will be several ways you can inspire them.

Martin Luther King achieved it by saying:

“I have a dream…, I have a dream…, I have a dream…”

Winston Churchill achieved the same by saying:

“We shall fight them…, we shall fight them…, we shall fight them… We shall never surrender.”

On the surface these seem to be opposite messages — but they both worked, and both inspired their audiences, because they both communicated the emotional messages their audiences were were longing to hear at the time.

When you talk to your different stakeholders, do you tailor your messages to make them relevant for that audience? Do you engage with them rationally and emotionally? Would doing this better bring you better results?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By The U.S. National Archives via

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