As a leader, one of the things you’re responsible for is increasing the creativity for you and your team.
Settling on Solutions
As leaders, our natural disposition can be to settle on solutions. That’s leadership, right? We know the problem, tackle the solution, and keep pushing forward.
In fact, quite the opposite is true.
Leaders who are expected to know and have all the answers create two primary problems.
First, they limit the effectiveness and full potential of their teams.
Second, they are subject to burnout.
Because of this, a large part of great leadership is not just about providing answers but creating an environment where our team can come up with better ones. Increacsing creativity happens thorugh an intentional delay.
Instead of seeking answers to questions like, “What’s probable?” as a question like, “What’s possible?”
Creativity is about “What’s Possible”
One of the necessary shifts in leadership thinking is to encourage and facilitate questions around what’s possible.
Instead of moving to solution-oriented ideas and tasks, entertain possibilities of the wild and extravagant.
Imagine a customer writing your business praising you for your new product that helped them. What did they say, feel, or experience? Once you know what that end destination is, then you can work backwards to create the product you just visualized.
Pretend a new company pops up and exploits your weaknesses, what would they do? Now that you know your biggest weaknesses, you can discover new ways to beat them.
Plan how you would operate your business if you were operating at ten times your current profit margin. Once you are aware of that, continue the discovery processes by dreaming up those new products and services. Start testing those and implement big change.
Implementing a creative making process for your team or organization benefits everyone.
The team will be more productive.
Your customers will have a better experience.
The community will experience greater blessing.
You will have less stress and more productivity.
However the process looks for you, take time to implement that creative process time
Bring together multiple disciplines.
Research seemingly unrelated fields or areas of interest.
As we emerge from quarantine and are reopening, our customers are facing problems. There are some new ones we can anticipate, some old ones that we can continue to meet, and there will be new ones we never see coming.
The victors will be those that adapt and overcome. Ulysses Grant, who hated the war life, once gave the philosophy that made him successful, despite his disdain for his occupation: “The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can and keep moving on.”
For our businesses, it might read something like: “Find the problem your customers have. Create a solution as quickly as possible. Implement your answer as best as you know how. Adapt. Repeat. Overcome.”
Together, Lincoln and Grant practice what I have come to call transformational teamwork. They built the vision and strategy, shared it with their team, and the tirelessly executed the plan. Transformational teams practice three key characteristics in all they do.
Clear Goals and Directions
The first requirement for transformational teams is to have clear goals and directions. Lincoln and Grant made their vision abundantly clear. For Lincoln, it was freedom for slaves and preservation of the Union. Grant implemented this through the term “unconditional surrender.” In fact, Grant would be known by this phrase so much that for a time people that U.S. Grant’s initials stood for “Unconditional Surrender.” The goal was clear: until the south abolishes slavery and lays down its arms without thought of picking them up again, the war has not been won.
We know the goals and directions we have for our businesses. As entrepreneurs, owners, or key stakeholders, we know why we get up every morning. We know what we’re chasing and the dream we are trying to accomplish. What about your employees or others around you? Can they articulate it clearly? Do they know, like Grant know how to implement the plan to achieve the goal?
The second piece required for transformational teams is effective communication. It is not enough to know the goals and directions we must communicate that information with our team. During seasons of stress, conflict, or failure, communication is often the first thing to go. Legacy Leaders know how important clear, concise, and effective communication is.
Effective communicate is done regularly. It seeks two-way feedback and establishes rules and norms. Clear Communication talks about not just what and how, but also why. It honors others, builds bridges, minimizes conflict, and restores relationships.
In times of stress or setback, good communication is often the first thing to go. People resort to perspective and bias. To preconceived notions about the way the world works. To overcome this, clear communication is a must. Anytime there is poor communication, issue an apology, and own your mistake.
As tension mounts, humility and the ability to ask for forgiveness keeps the team united and focused on what really matters. Create a culture of open dialogue, feedback, humility, and reconciliation and watch your transformational team thrive.
The final component of Transformative Teamwork is what I call 360-Coaching. More than normal feedback and assessment performance reviews, it is focused on real-time, growth-oriented feedback. Instead of backward reflection, instill future-focused development opportunities.
The official definition of coaching from the International Coaching Federation is this: “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
360-Coaching takes the whole person and seeks to develop them. Employers who care about both their employee’s productivity and their outside life, inspire confidence, instill loyalty, and extend grace. This is important because as much as we may pretend that our outside life doesn’t affect our work, that just isn’t the case.
Offering real-time feedback circumvents a chance for negative experiences or poor performance while opening up communication lines.
When high-performing leaders set clear goals, keep an open communication, and coach the whole person, a transformative team is born. A transformative team can conquer an obstacle and overcome any hardship.
This is an excerpt and adaptation of a business development seminar. To read additional excerpts, you can find part one here and part two here. To watch the presentation, go here.
In fact, play is so important to children that it has been declared a basic human right.
However, what we fail to realize is that play is just as necessary, just as vital, and just as beneficial to adults. Somewhere along the way, we forget to play.
Benefits of Play
“Play” as leaders extend the same benefits. Through play, we develop resilience, learn emotional intelligence, group dynamics, and practice grit. Most importantly, as leaders, we discover the benefits of laughing. Laughing lowers blood pressure and pain levels, calms tension, relieves stress, promotes creativity, and aids in the fight against depression. As it turns out, laughter really is the best medicine.
When we as leaders engage in play, both privately and with our teams, we are modeling what holistically healthy leadership looks like. We set the standard that while we take our work seriously, we don’t have to take ourselves seriously.
More than that, I’ve also become a firm believer that a team’s ability to play together is one of the easiest tests of true team dynamics and strength. One group was notoriously good at working together … or so they thought. Their meetings were very structured, a lot of agenda items were discussed, and everyone left with a list of tasks to accomplish.
One day, I suggested that we go out together, as a group, and do something fun. Bowling, laser tag, board games, it didn’t really matter. The point was to do something together as a group that didn’t involve work. What I wanted was this group to play, to experience fun together, to find a lighter side to leadership.
It was rebuffed.
By all of them.
The excuses varied. Some were “too busy.” Some “couldn’t see the point.” The result was the same. This group continued to experience a slow decline in productivity, trust, and goal achievement.
Leaders without play produce leadership without vision.
Bringing in Play
All of the team-consulting activities I bring in involve play. Leadership personality assessments, team-building, corporate revisioning, sales and marketing, all of it requires an element of play. Along the way, we’re going to talk growth strategies and productivity, but not of it happens without play.
The ability to laugh at ourselves.
To open up and be vulnerable.
A grand discovery that we don’t have all the answers. (One of my personal favorites is team-building from an escape room, if you want to know what that looks like, you can email me here).
In our leadership journey, never forget the importance of play. It keeps us grounded, builds trust with our teammates, and builds the character and grit we need to succeed.
If you want to enjoy a bit of the lighter side of leadership, watch the video below. In this installment of, “The Lighter Side of Leadership” we taste mystery cupcakes and talk about surviving life in quarantine.
In his book, Miller highlights the difference between what is expected of everyone in an organization, and what is expected of leaders.
Everyone in an organization must be concerned with “Helping Others Win.” Leaders have the added burden to “Communicate Tirelessly.”
When it comes to communicating mission, vision, and values, the experience of my own coaching clients bears this out.
One of the points I make repeatedly is the need to over-communicate these key aspects of the business.
Here is the rule we start from: Once you’ve talked about your vision a hundred times, the average employee has heard and understood it less than ten.
But it’s true.
One of the great failures of business owners and leaders happens when they think everyone else ‘just gets it.’
As a business owner, you may be passionate and inspired by your vision. Compelled by the mission, you get out of bed every day ready to change the world.
Your average employee doesn’t.
To bring them into the mission and vision you created, it must be shared.
4 Levels of communication
1.) A Failure to Communicate
The first way we communicate is not at all. Like the famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate!”
A number of years ago, I shared a meme that reminds me of this. The caption I posted was, “This signifies my day so much”
The meme was of a couple, sitting on opposite ends of the couch. The woman, in her diary, was writing about her the distance her husband had been displaying that day. She had made his favorite meal, and there was not so much as a “Thanks.” involved.
She wanted to go out that night and get dressed up. He seemed disinterested.
She tried to snuggle him and watch tv, he was cold and stand-offish.
The diary continued, wanting to know what the problem was. Was he seeing another woman? Maybe their relationship was in trouble? Did he not love her anymore.”
Then we see his diary. Motorcycle won’t start. Can’t figure out why.
This lack of communication led to marriage trouble that didn’t have to exist, at least as far as the meme was concerned.
I shared it that day because it resonated. If I remember correctly, I had a lot of apologizing to do after that.
2.) Poor Communication
Since we’re on the subject of things I’ve learned the hard way, here’s another one.
A couple of years into our marriage, in the midst of a ‘heated discussion’ my wife finally snapped. “I wish you wouldn’t call me “dear.” You only say that when you’re angry with me.”
Sometimes we communicate. We just do it poorly. The wording is wrong. The metaphor doesn’t work. The imagery fails. It happens when I speak (more than I’d like to admit) and it happens when we share the vision with others.
Business owners just as frequently communicate poorly.
Every time a business owner shares company values but doesn’t practice them, there is poor communication.
When a business leader excuses poor language, crude humor, or angry outbursts as “their personality”, poor communication is experienced.
3.) Base Communication
Assuming you as a leader don’t want to fail to communicate or communicate poorly, what are the other options?
The first is base-communication. But let’s be clear upfront, this is still not considered good communication.
It’s the bare minimum required to get any given task accomplished.
Base level communication is, “John I need you to send me that report.” Why? “Because I said so.”
The job gets done. You will get the report emailed to you, but it’s hardly exhilarating leadership.
Base-communication cares about one thing: results. But, as great leaders know and practice, we care about more than results.
So where does that leave us as leaders wanting to do more, be more, and have more?
Over-communicating is people inspiring, mission clarifying, and value-enhancing. Over-communicating looks at more than the task or the goal, it examines the heart of the person we are speaking with.
The best leaders we know practice the art of over-communicating. They speak clearly, concisely, and contextually. Great leaders know how to get at both the heart of the matter and the heart of the person quickly. Excellent communicators know what it means to elevate others and embrace the mission.
Over-communication requires commitment, bravery, and an extreme commitment to service.
The Case to Over-Communicate
To win the hearts of those around, the only way forward is to over-communicate. But note that over-communication is not micro-managing. It does not over. It does not belittle. And it does not de-value.
Over-communication accentuates the positive. It brings out the best in others. Over communication sparks light and life in those that are listening.
Over-communication holds unwaiverlingly to the idea that everyone can witn.
When we over-communicate with our spouse, employees, team-members, and friends we bring value and honor to their personhood.