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May 21, 2014

Further Inspiration: Lessons Learned from a Motivational CEO Commencement Speech


Yesterday, I offered praise for the brilliance of Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s May commencement address to graduates of the City Colleges of Chicago. Posted online, the full speech moved me.

Today, I offer some specific lessons learned from Sandberg’s speech that can be applied to any corporate leader looking to engage and capture an employee audience. Using a slightly different lens, her thoughts resonate just as well for new employees, or long-term ones looking for fresh evidence that their contributions truly matter to the company’s overall mission.

Sandberg offered three specific motivational points for her audience. Here’s a look at them and advice for how applying these inspirational messages to your own employees:

1. Sandberg: “First and most important: Believe in yourself. Believing you can do something is the first step to doing it. … I’ve seen over and over how much self-belief drives outcomes. And that’s why I force myself to sit at the table, even when I am not sure I belong there.”
  • Translated for your employees: “We hired you because we believe in you. Be empowered to do the great work we know you can do. Be bold. Be creative. Take risks to advance our mission and values.”
2. Sandberg: “Plan and chase your dream. Getting from point A to point Z can be daunting unless you remember that you don’t have to get from A to Z. You just have to get from A to B. Breaking big dreams into small steps is the way to move forward.
  • Translated for your employees:  Share your own experiences for how you’ve already taken the company from point A to point B, and your vision for getting it to point Z.
3. “Know that the world needs you to change it. Last year, I wrote a book called “Lean In” about inequality between men and women. It turns out – get ready for this shocker – that men still run the world. And I’m not sure it’s going that well. I believe that the world would be a better place if it were more equal.”
  • Translated for your employees in two possible ways:
    • I became the leader of this company because I believe our products can transform the way people communicate every day. We can make a difference and we present a very exciting alternative to our customers. We want you to join us on this exciting adventure.
    • Every perspective at this company matters deeply to me. I know it’s the key to our long-term success as a business. What more can we do as a company to ensure that all of the diverse opinions at this organization are collected and incorporated into our thinking?

What stories can you tell that will help inspire your workforce?

-          David Grossman


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