Talk Does Not Cook Rice

Is training your team enough to get the most out of them? What other factors can help inspire your team and allow them to reveal their true potential? An entrepreneur reflects on personal experiences and gives us some pointers on the topic.

Many in Nepal believe in ruthless leadership i.e., leadership through fear and intimidation. How many times have you hidden behind your cubicle wall or darted into the restroom once you saw your supervisor walking down the hallway? That is the way many businesses operate in Nepal. Is this form of leadership outdated? How can a businessman, an entrepreneur, or a leader inspire a team? Below, I outline a few key ways a leader can inspire their team towards meeting the organization’s goals.

Setting a clear and inspirational vision: The greatest entrepreneurs set an inspiring vision, a vision that their team can easily understand and espouse themselves. Take Steve Jobs, the legendary CEO of Apple – his vision was to create products that awe users and are simple to use. He hammered that vision into all of Apple’s employees and that is evidently reflected in their products, even after his death.


Empowering your team: A good leader always makes his or her employee feel that they are working on their own ideas and have ownership over their work. When I started Biruwa Ventures, one of the first things I did was to create a Facebook group of prospective partners, investors, supporters and stakeholders. I used that group to discuss business ideas, disseminate information and even polled group members on what to name this new company. As a result, more than 100 members of the group now feel that they are part of Biruwa because they played a role in the conception of the business. Today, all of them are Biruwa’s brand ambassadors and a part of the team.

Communicating your expectations: Most great leaders do not micromanage. Over managing your employees will clog their creativity and make even the most exciting jobs mundane. Instead, great leaders communicate their expectations properly. If you are careful in your hiring process and hire people who already understand and relate to your vision, it is much easier to communicate with them. But in some cases, where talent is scarce, it is also possible to let your employees fail and learn from their mistakes.

Leading from the front: There is a famous Chinese proverb that goes: “Talk does not cook rice”. The best way to inspire your team is to start acting yourself. It is much easier for your team to follow your direction if you are leading from the front rather than just sitting back and giving directions. There is a similarity between the business and the military worlds. The greatest Generals in the army were those who commanded respect from their troops through their actions.

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” – General Douglas MacArthur, General in the U.S. Army during World War II

What is the difference between training and inspiring? Some may argue that an organization can meet its goal without an inspirational leader, by simply training its employees or team members. Yes, these trained employees can be productive and effective. But the organization itself will miss a mark if the team is not truly inspired towards the organization’s vision.

On a daily basis, I walk into restaurants where the waiters are probably very well trained – they will say the regular “Welcome, Sir!”, give you the menu and bring water. But, without the inspiration of providing good service, they will fall short. Now imagine a leader who has inspired the team by doing the following things:

  • Sets a vision that the restaurant will be known for its best customer experience in town along with its equally good food.
  • Lets the waiters decide on food and drink specials for the nights and recommend good food to the customers.
  • Sets expectation for the waiters of not only providing the regular service but going the extra mile by smiling, paying attention and being very cordial.
  • On a regular basis serving the customers yourself and showing your waiters how it should really be done.

For each business, the way you inspire your team will be different, but if you follow the basic principles listed above, you will have taken a step towards becoming a good leader.

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