Position Your Organization to Lead
Does your business strategy aspire to lag behind competitors in revenues, profits or new customer capture? Unlikely. Yet this is exactly what happens to many companies today.
Organizations invest a lot of time and effort updating products, technology and go-to-market strategies, but even these advancements can seem out of date on day one of implementation. So how can companies stay current, relevant and inspiring in today’s volatile marketplace? How can leaders favorably position their businesses for growth and durability? It takes some planning.
Setting the Stage
It requires more than sheer will to achieve a workplace environment that proactively generates new ideas and solutions. Consider this perspective on change from scholar and businessman Peter Drucker: “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” A smart approach is to build a culture of curiosity and to start viewing routine things in different ways.
To stimulate this out-of-the-box thinking in your workforce, try and present ideas in a unique way. I knew of an English teacher who laid five seemingly unrelated objects around the room every day before class. When students arrived, they were to find the objects and write a short story that logically linked the objects together. The daily experiment worked; students observed, applied critical reasoning skills, and then used creative storytelling to link the objects in a novel way under a common theme. By the end of the school year, these students were creative critical thinkers and could express themselves with clarity. Build this type of thinking exercise into your leadership and development cache.
Managers are in the best position to help the workforce develop these skills so that great ideas can be discovered. Leading by example, managers should personally pursue this way of thinking and purpose to model it for their employees. Begin with a couple of simple steps.
- Set aside time each week to observe and listen without judgment. What did you see for the first time? When overhearing an employee conversation with a customer, what did you hear for the first time? Note the pace and pattern of employees coming into or leaving their work areas. What impressions do you now have with this new open perspective?
- Insights should be probed for root cause and solutions or ideas proposed. A mind cluttered with worry and relentless pressure finds it difficult to see its way out of a situation, and will thereby miss obvious opportunities. We must help employees disengage from the autopilot mindset. While maintaining the status quo may work for a while, it lends itself to predictable outcomes and will not keep your workplace current and viable for long.
Involving the Workforce
Leaders need to communicate a framework around what needs to be solved, improved or changed. They should engage those closest to the operation to be the eyes, ears and voices contributing new ideas. Here are five guiding principles to keep in mind:
- Model—Leaders communicate what and why, and challenge employees by asking open questions to initiate thinking about improvements. Share examples from your own observations and teach employees to ask themselves questions like why, what if, how, etc.
- Attitude—Adopt the belief that one idea can lead to another and to another that could eventually be ground breaking. Commitment to thinking differently takes courage and resilience. Encourage workers to forge through ambiguity, doubts and complexities.
- Test ideas—Teach employees to verify their ideas against established criteria, seek feedback, listen to the naysayers and consider their views. Ideas should be given a fair hearing and most viable ones advanced.
- Document—Take notes and at the end of the day develop your list of ideas to explore. You will be surprised at how much you previously assumed and missed. Submit the most viable ideas.
- Recognize—Celebrate and continue to encourage the creative critical thinking practice. Applaud all innovative offerings, not just the ideas that will be implemented. Make this creative thinking process a part of team meetings.
Benefits and Outcomes
An innovative, rich culture values ideas and increases both observation and thinking skills. The person harboring a hidden treasure trove of ideas to improve morale or conceptualize the next break-through product may be sitting quietly in the cube around the corner. When vetted and refined, new ideas can lead to efficiencies, profit, revenue and satisfied customers.
Whether in the mailroom or the boardroom, all workers can contribute to company improvement and innovation. Sometimes the simplest idea brings the greatest gains.
Need help inspiring your leadership? The Devine Inventory can help you discover the strengths and weaknesses of your c-suite, and offer actionable next steps to guide the growth of your team.