Workplace Inspiration – 5 Tips to Stimulate your Brilliance

By | 2013/07/29

I was recently invited to answer a single survey question on LinkedIn. The question was this: How often do you feel inspired by your work?

This is a heavy question – much more involved than it seems on the surface. LinkedIn’s version of this question was a sliding bar that you simply drag to the appropriate place on the scale. You don’t know your actual score until after you submit the answer, and then LinkedIn responds with your actual % (out of 100).

Sliding Score

Sliding Score

I found the results surprising – the average reported inspiration level was far lower than I expected. There were approximately 31,000 participants when I took the survey initially. Since LinkedIn has MANY more users, I expect these numbers may change quite a bit over time – in fact, the number had climbed to 40,483 while I was pulling the info below together (within about 15 minutes!). Here are some of the stats from when I took this survey.

The average score was 70. Overall, men average 70, while women average 69.

Among different age groups, the inspiration level increases as you get older

Age Inspiration Index
Age 18-29 65
Age 30-44 67
Age 45-64 73
Age 65+ 79

India and Brazil have the highest average inspiration index and 72 and 76 respectively. United States comes in at 68.

The numbers by industry are interesting. Here are the top 5 and bottom 5 industries at this point in time:

Top 5 Industries

Industry Inspiration Index
Dispute Resolution 98
Restaurants 89
Legislative Office 89
Glass 86
Investment Banking 86

Bottom 6 (I had to one more, because I was surprised to find “defense & space” near the bottom)

Industry Inspiration Index
Program Development 50
Consumer Electronics 52
Outsourcing & Offshoring 53
Package Delivery 54
Public Policy 55
Defense & Space 57

The breakdown by seniority shows that folks higher on the corporate ladder may be more inspired by their work

LinkedIn Inspiration By Seniority

Other than an interesting bit of trivia, what can we glean from this survey?

To me, it highlights a sad truth – that a large percentage of employees are not inspired by their work. That’s unfortunate, since I believe work can be not only a source of inspiration, but also a wonderful place to increase knowledge and mentor others.

My score came out much higher than the average, which leads me to ask the obvious question: why? Here is a list of tips & tricks that I use to stay inspired and motivated at work – regardless of what the job may dish out:

  1. Know your personal mission. Reminder for those who may have forgotten Strategic Management 101 from college: A company’s mission answers “what is our business”, while a vision statement answers “what do we want to become”. When applied to your personal career, your mission is what you’re about. My personal (professional) mission is to always add value to my company. As an IT leader this typically happens when I identify and implement the BEST solution to any particular business challenge.
  2. Be a life-long-learner. It would be impossible for me to perform my mission well without a broad and deep knowledge of IT. Being the best Python coder or best network administrator won’t guarantee I’ll be able to identify the BEST solution to a business challenge. The more knowledge I have about ALL aspects of business:  finance, marketing, sales, etc, the more options I understand and can evaluate.
  3. Help others succeed. The most satisfying part of management is to help others realize their strengths and help them succeed. Obviously, employees are ultimately responsible for their own success (or lack thereof), but good managers should make it easier by removing obstacles and encouraging growth.
  4. Schedule inspiration. This sounds a bit counter-intuitive – especially for those who think inspiration works like lightning bolts. But just as a lightning rod attracts lightning, I think we can prepare ourselves for inspiration “to strike”. For example, I use my morning commute to listen to inspirational material. My decades-long favorite is “Lead The Field” by Earl Nightingale (I have an old blog post here that highlights). I also schedule 30 minutes to walk over lunch. The time away from my desk clears my head and resets me for the afternoon. I’ve noticed that my afternoon productivity declines on days without this break.
  5. Keep perspective. Very few of us who spend time reading blogs (you know who you are) face life-or-death problems daily. It’s helpful to remember that even our most pressing problems are trivial compared to the challenges faced by people in third world countries, drug addicts struggling to overcome addiction, and the poor struggling to survive. No matter how bad my workday may be, my work problems are not life-or-death. And in hindsight, some of the hardest moments in my career were also the most rewarding long-term. The worst day of my life was the first SANS class I taught, because so many things went wrong.  However, that experience eventually helped me overcome a fear of public speaking. Now I actually gain intense satisfaction from speaking in public.

Did you take the LinkedIn survey? What would you add to this list?

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