Author Archives: Paul LaRue
Fostering creativity is one of the best ways to make employees feel like valued, contributing partners in your organization.
Unfortunately many leaders don’t foster creativity. Whether intentional or not, the resulting roadblocks that impede or deter innovation and creative thinking also lead to disengagement, lower morale and less productivity.
Unlocking the barriers to creativity is one of the easiest things to do, but the hardest to commit to. It requires an admission of the deficiencies of your company culture and most likely you or your managers leadership skills.
In order to foster a creative organization, you will need to look at what specific leadership principles and culture mindsets you have that stifle and thwart innovation.
Hierarchy and demands alone won’t make this happen. Creativity needs a loose culture that allows innovation to grow on its own when conditions are right.
If you don’t want your people to be creative, than you may have larger problems that need to be addressed. But if you really covet a creative team, examine what barriers are present and determine to remove them.
Ask yourself if any of these exist:
Do you state “That’s not your job description” or “I want you to do it the way we’ve always done it.”
Do you want uniformity and metrics or out-of-the-box thinking?
Is independent thinking discouraged? Do bosses ever say “I don’t pay you to think.”
Do you expect so much out of a workday that staff don’t have time to breathe and reflect?
Are employees kept in the dark as to vision? Do you ever invite them to sit in on strategy meetings?
Are employees unduly punished for taking risks or challenging the status quo?
Are ideas for innovation shot down before their merits are even validated?
If any of these questions are affirmed, then work to educate the leaders in your company and make concerted plans to be open to innovation.
Such steps might be to create mechanisms to prevent ideas from being shot down. Have management personnel take lessons on brainstorming and mastermind sessions. Watch for buzz words and cliche sayings that stop those creative juices from flowing freely.
Another good idea is to keep a measure of how many creative ideas come from your people. If you see the numbers trend down, it’s most assuredly a sign of management being the issue, and not the team.
Once you sustain an environment for your people to contribute and thrive, you bridge a substantial gap between engagement and commitment.
Leaders and organizations that can identify the systemic deliberate and unintentional roadblocks to creativity will find a competitive edge in today’s marketplace. Not only in being able to compete with innovation, but in keeping and engaging with the best talent. Talent you might already have on your roster.
Hard skills that leaders possess can be generally clustered into the following areas:
- Technical skills
- Analytical skills
- Marketing skills
- Presentation skills
- Management skills
- Project management skills
These are skills that show up on a resume/CV and are typically quantified by shareholder reports, profit-and-loss statements and other reporting and/or certification methods.
It’s usually the hard skills that companies recruit for and seek out
Soft skills, the ones that default to the “nice to have” category, are usually categorized into the following:
- Emotional Intelligence
- Service Mindedness
These are the ones that employees seek from their leaders. They typically don’t end up in resume searches, portfolios or promoted by recruiters.
Yet these are the ones that companies like The Gallup Organization, Entrepreneur, and renowned leadership consultants like Lolly Daskal identify are needed from leaders in the workplace.
In looking at the juxtaposition of the names of soft skills and hard skills, one should wonder – why are “soft skills” so hard to come by?
Probably because they require authenticity, integrity, character and accountability.
It’s easier to acquire hard skills. The soft skills result in you serving others. While every leader can serve others, very few choose to do so.
Soft skills are hard. But so worth the investment for the long game.
The Oxford dictionary definition of “competent” is “having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully”.
When you think of someone being a competent leader, what images or descriptions come to mind?
Most likely the easiest definitions that come to mind are the following:
- Technical knowledge
- Industry experience
- Proven to achieve results, numbers, sales, metrics
- Ability to overcome obstacles
These criteria, while good, don’t portray the whole of what competent leadership is and should be. In fact, it only paints a partial picture – cold and technical, devoid of what matters to employees.
An article from Indeed from September 2020 posed a series of key competencies that every leaders should possess.
In these eight competency traits, none of them had anything to do with numbers, shares, or technical ability. They all dealt with interpersonal skills and being others-focused on the people that make up the organization.
We can understand that leadership needs to create results, but we often forget how to create those results because we’re so focused on the competencies that “matter” versus the “soft competencies” that inspire, develop and sustain those results over time.
A competent leader doesn’t just look at the end of period results and justify their efforts. They also look at the culture and temperature of the workplace and understand their people need to feel connected through trust, integrity, communication, self-discipline of their leaders and engaged teamwork in order to build and continue any degree of success.
In order to consider oneself a competent leader, one needs to make sure their employees endorse their “having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do <this> successfully”.
The most competent leaders know this.
The value of a leader is not determined by their own success but by the success of their entire team.
What steps are you taking to ensure you prove to your people that you are competent? Write them down and make a commitment to work on those competencies this week.