by Kathy Cooperman
A critical leadership skill is effectively leading teams. As you navigate the “white waters” of change, you can achieve greater traction by encouraging creativity and innovation within your team.
Think about some of the most innovative figures in history. Who comes to mind? If you’re like many, some of the following are likely to surface:
• Thomas Edison
• Albert Einstein
• Leonardo da Vinci
It only takes a quick search to identify some of the common characteristics of these innovators — persistence, courage, risk-taking, failure, etc.
A defining characteristic is that great innovators not only dream big, but also act to make those dreams reality. They also rarely achieve great things alone.
Following through separates the dreamers from the innovators.
Consider the following process when leading your team through its next challenge, especially when creative or innovative thinking is required.
1. Creating: This is the fun brainstorming stage — thinking “outside the box” and imagining possibilities.
2. Collaborating: After your team has exhausted all possible ideas, you move into the phase of working together, clarifying roles (who will do what?) and deciding who else needs to be involved in the process.
3. Challenging: This is the chance to play devil’s advocate. Tear the great idea apart by thinking of all the obstacles that could get in the way or all the reasons the idea may not work.
4. Implementing: This is the point at which you execute the plan; without this important step, all your hard work will be wasted.
5. Measuring: Set a specific time after implementation when you go back and determine if the innovation (or implementation of the idea) really worked. What are the benefits and consequences?
Team members bring different strengths to a team. Each has a history of experiences, knowledge and talents on which they rely. Most people prefer one of the five steps listed above. Those natural differences are assets to team problem solving. They also are the perfect catalyst for conflict.
Encourage your team members to understand and respect the value that each of them brings to the team. Imagine what your team would be like if all members were strong at brainstorming, but no one excelled in evaluating or critiquing ideas. On the flip side, imagine if your team rarely came up with new ideas and only criticized fresh ideas that were voiced.
Leader as Facilitator
I like to think of leaders as facilitators, especially during team meetings. As the team collaborates to find a new idea, solve a significant problem or address an issue, take a neutral role in guiding the team through the innovation process outlined above. Avoid being tempted to skip a step to save time or money. Also, ensure all members have a voice in the process, especially when they have unique viewpoints.
By following the innovation process, you’re likely to see a more engaged, enthusiastic team and potentially great new ideas.
For more information contact Kathy Cooperman, KC Leadership Consulting, LLC, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1 (866) 303-1996 or (303) 522-2114.