Being part of great corporation’s life for many years, I have become a big observer of what a successful organization is being built upon. Successful organizations have the knowledge, compassion and foresight to build a sustainable future for humanity and create conditions where all stakeholders win (these are investors, employees, customers, suppliers, society and the environment). How do they make sure that everyone wins? The leaders of these organisations are aware of their own and stakeholder’s wants and needs and constantly look for new ways of getting them met.
It is very well known to any successful leader that in order to keep the organization’s numbers on balance sheets green, he or she needs to encourage new ideas and new ways of implementing them to meet the expectations not only of the clients and customers but other stakeholders too. Creating and sustaining an innovative organisational culture requires many efforts from the leadership team. Here are some ideas I have observed as best practices of promoting an innovative culture:
- Give thanks for every idea which has been brought to you, even if you cannot use it. Every idea counts so recognize it, for instance at a team meeting or a regular 1:1.. Remember you want to create an organisational culture where everyone is being encouraged and motivated to share his or her ideas.
- Welcome new ideas and be mindful of your responses. Look to respond rather than react by choosing your words wisely. Avoid using the phrase “Yes, but..” when ideas are being presented to you. If you really cannot use the idea, try using the word ‘And’ instead of ‘But’ within your response to the employee. “E.g. Yes and the current budget restrictions are quite tight at the moment to move this idea forward. Let us review in the next quarter…” Subconsciously this will not be regarded by the employee as a negative response or a rejection and your employees will still feel encouraged to bring more ideas forward to you.
- Sincerely listen to the idea being presented to you – ask follow up questions, be 100% present, in other words absolutely NO looking at emails, phone messages or thinking about something else while you’re with your employees. You will demonstrate respect and appreciation by being genuinely interested and present. Remember every energy you give out is being noticed not only by your employees but also by the universe. If you fake it, it will somehow come back to you. This is the universal law of Cause and Effect.
- Promote courage and overcoming fears–start with facing your own fears as a leader. If you show your employees you can be vulnerable and able to face your fears, they will feel empowered to do so too. According to Richard Barrett (The New Leadership Paradigm) “one of the key strengths of authentic leaders is to face his/her fears as only then he/she knows how to lead him/herself before he/she can lead others”. Think of your employees as your reflection or a mirror. Often the struggle of creating an innovative culture lies in the employee’s motivation and fear of making a mistake due to the possibility of being punished, humiliated or mocked for his or her mistakes. If they are afraid to face their fear, they are somehow mirroring your fears and you need to resolve your fears before helping them to resolve theirs.
- Stimulate trust – trust feeds innovation, collaboration, empowerment, loyalty which results in a better human interaction, deal making, project success and quality. If mistakes are being made, make sure your employees learn lessons from their mistakes and they move on. The universal Law of Forgiveness states that by forgiving and letting go of any negative thoughts and feelings, we encourage a better and positive future. Whatever you focus on, you manifest. If you constantly focus on mistakes, more mistakes will be created.
- Spot innovators in your team – these are generalists rather than specialists, they know a little about many things and like to move around to experience new things, don’t fancy tight deadlines, but need some kind of boundaries. Get to know their motivational force in order to keep it running so they constantly work on their creativity. Make sure ideas are implemented.
- Encourage the employee’s exposure to other environments and jobs by implementing the model of job shadowing or job rotation as a part of their individual development. This opens up their creativity and moves them out of their comfort zone. Encourage them to spend a few hours a month in a different department following somebody on his/her job or working in another location and you will see extraordinary things happen. Apart from feeding their creativity, this approach dilutes internal communication silos, inspires positive working practices to take place, and increases an employee’s engagement and development opportunities.
- Unique and relevant strategy – If your strategy is vague or fails to differentiate your organisation from the competition, you should change this situation as quickly as possible. Make sure your innovators understand your strategy and strategic goals. There is nothing worse than when innovators come up with new ideas, no matter how creative and indeed innovative they may be, that do not align to corporate strategy.
Remember the culture you create as a leader is a reflection of your values, beliefs and behaviors you hold and use. Your beliefs, thinking and behavioral patterns have been collected by you throughout your life from your family, friends, teachers, bosses etc. and are stored in your subconscious mind. Whatever your subconscious mind is being filled with creates your reality around you. You cannot cheat the universe. The good news is that you can consciously reprogram these in order to create the positive changes you would like to make and see within the organisation or even your private life. Stay tuned for my next article where I’ll share practical tips for reprogramming your subconscious mind to create your ideal reality.LIFE PURPOSE is the unique impact you are called to make for the benefit of others. Only then you come alive.