It is often hindering when you hear a variant of ‘that is not how it’s done here’ in your workplace. This usually happens when employees voice their concerns or new ideas for a project, and it is confusing when a project leader dismisses or overlooks such interesting input. Even indirect dismissal in the form of ‘OK, is there anything else?’ may inadvertently build a workplace atmosphere that is not conducive to genuinely effective brainstorming. Why may this happen? And how do great leaders give rise to great ideas? Read on to find out.
Lead by example and be proactive
The keyword here is ‘inadvertently’. If you have been chosen to lead a new project or supervise an existing team, you want to make sure to work towards creating a safe space for giving rise to great new ideas. Of course, most organizations and team leaders know this, but we are explicitly referring to giving feedback that will encourage creative thinking and good work dynamic above all. So, offhand remarks and disinterest should be ousted from your team’s rhetoric from the get-go since one of the primary roles of a great leader is to set a good example to your employees or other members of your team.
1. Give the spotlight to every employee in the company
Most organizations that frequently face challenges of different kinds know very well that they need all the brainpower they can get to adapt, grow, and prosper. Nobody would ever say that they do not allow great ideas to be suggested in reports, roundup sessions, and meetings.
But this is sometimes not true in a different sense, especially in companies with a large, hierarchical division of labor. In such environments, the usual line of thinking is that the creative team takes care of the creative aspects of work, the executive team of executive decisions, other employees take care of administrative or manual labor, etc. Once employees are used to a certain kind of working dynamic, they automatically delegate work like this.
But great ideas can be created from the cooperation of different departments and different experts or workers. If a single employer or executive director puts forward a good idea, it can easily be tweaked and improved with an additional suggestion to become a great idea. Similarly, it is not the case that only creative directors create groundbreaking ideas. An innovative idea can just as easily come from ‘the lower ranks’ in the hierarchy if only you allow such a free flow of ideas.
Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. – Jack Welch
2. Make sure to openly promote suggestions and ideas
As we have briefly mentioned, team-leaders must make it transparently clear that just because the team is used to working in a certain way, does not mean that trying out new ideas is not equally as important as sticking to the established routine. Once you get your employees used to this regiment, so to speak, you will see significant improvement in collaborative tasks, general communication and cooperation between different areas of expertise.
And crucially – give a lot of opportunities. Sometimes your employees may not even be aware of their potential unless they are ‘given the push’. This is entirely natural, and it should be your duty to present your workers with these kinds of opportunities. The ‘I can’t’ attitude is easy to amend, but sometimes it takes you believing in your workers more than they may believe in themselves.
3. Give spotlight to those ‘crazy ideas’ no matter who the author is
It is a common misconception that only the likes of great minds like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are able to come up with truly innovative ideas. This stems from the fact that they are the most well-known innovators – innovators who are so great it seems as if their companies will never find better ones.
However, it is quite frequently the case that a multimillion-dollar idea comes from a production line supervisor or employee. For example, they may think of a way to use scraps from your main production lines to create a budget-friendly product that simultaneously recycles old materials and requires no additional investments in the form of machinery or personnel.
4. Resist the status quo
Humans are creatures of habit. People working in the same industry for ages learn to adhere to a particular procedural outline of when, why, and how they do things. They may be reluctant to question whether there is room for improvement in a system that already works sufficiently well. This line of thinking is, in a way, a trap for leaders who aspire to achieve greatness but are more or less content with how things work as it is.
Introducing changes to an established model of working can even provoke discontent, confusion, and resistance. What you need to remember is that, as a leader, it is your duty to explain why the company should strive to innovate, to examine reasons for reluctance to change rather than forcibly make people change their approach to work from the ground up, and, last but not least, to be patient and persistent for the good of the company.
Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. – Peter Drucker
5. Trust in your vision
Finally, do not forget to be equal amounts self-critical and self-confident. People sometimes forget that they are humans as well as leaders, and they tend to ascribe every single failure to their own misgivings and misjudgments. But do not allow this constricting way of thinking get the better of you – the road to success is paved with mini-defeats that make our steps firmer and stronger the more we overcome hurdles that come our way!
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