A ten-year old girl sits with a smile across her face. Earlier this year she was made fun of in her class for being stupid, and even more sadly, she believed it. Having struggled with school much of her life, why is she now smiling?
A friend of mine who is the managing director of a local brain training center in Fort Collins, told me that when they hire trainers (the people who work with both children and adults to help them strengthen the parts of their brain that are weaker), they look for people who are two things: trustworthy and inspiring. They must be trustworthy to earn the respect of those committing their resources into the care of this program. They also must be able to inspire effort.
Many of the people who enter these programs are downcast. They have been told that they are incapable and that there isn’t anything they can do to change that. The reality is that the brain is a muscle that improves with exercise. Also like a muscle, it requires a particular type of training in order to properly give it form. This is why physical therapy is so useful – specific exercises that push the body cause change. The same is true with the mind. And both the physical therapist and the brain trainer need to be able to inspire effort in those that they are training. It’s very hard work to push ourselves to overcome areas of weakness in our life. We need help to see that it can be done, believe that we can accomplish it, and show us the path. This is why it is so important for the guide to be able to inspire effort.
As my friend was describing this, I realized that this is also an essential skill of us as leaders. We don’t simply work to inspire those who follow us, but to inspire effort toward their growth. Not just to think it, but to get it done.
This is what is making the ten-year old girl smile. She is finally accomplishing things she never thought possible. It’s a combination of belief and challenge that help all of us get better.