Cultivating Creativity

A colleague once asked if I considered myself a creative person. My immediate response: “Absolutely not!” I thought about the wildly imaginative individuals in my workplace, many of whom annoyed me with their half-baked ideas, and concluded that I was just the boring “get it done” leader.

Over time I became more confident in my creativity and I have since learned that while certain environments stifle creativity, others nurture it.

Sometimes as leaders we have great intentions, but our impact is the opposite of what we want. Consider how these two factors, challenging goals and delegating, can be double-edged swords boosting or crushing creativity and positive engagement:

Challenging goals

I know a number of leaders who love setting “big hairy audacious goals” (BHAGs), expecting their followers to rise to the challenge. Other leaders will never set tough goals because they are worried their teams will find them unattainable.

Which works best? Depends on the employees; each person will have their own unique reaction. One of the best techniques to address this issue is to involve your team in the process of creating goals. Talk to each individual – talk about your intentions, and then enquire about their thoughts. What sounds exciting to one person may be intimidating for another and seem downright reckless to someone else. Ask open-ended questions to get their feedback, and stimulate their creativity.

Delegating

Delegation is one of the most powerful tools in our leadership toolbox. Done well, delegating a new task to an employee can make their day and boost their excitement. Delegation builds the employee’s skills, increasing the capacity of your entire team, while freeing you to focus on your most important and challenging tasks.

However, done poorly, it can kill morale and creativity, destroying what you hoped to achieve. Similar to BHAGs, ineffective delegation has the potential to overwhelm. Choose wisely those tasks that will motivate an employee, and then support them appropriately. Assess how to support your team member based on their current level of competence, as well as their personality, and needs. While we don’t want to be accused of micromanagement neither should we be neglectful or irresponsible.

How do you know how you are doing? Results can be measured, but the only way to assess morale is to ask and then listen! Perhaps it’s time to ask your team how they feel about their level of creativity. Where would they like to be more creative? What can you do to help them? It comes down to open and honest communication. Use your next coaching meeting to cultivate an environment of imagination and possibility!

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October 1, 2019

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