How can we increase creativity and engagement?

Many ideasHave you ever been a victim of this circumstance?

Senior leadership issues a clarion call for new ideas.  “We need to generate more revenue!”  Or more likely, “Our costs are too high and we want your input on how to cut our expenses!”  But this is not just any request to submit some ideas into a suggestion box or idea database.  Instead, there is a sense of urgency and perhaps even an expectation that every person contributes.  Groups across the organization are assembled for brainstorming sessions. Perhaps edicts are issued.  “No one can leave the room unless they submit at least 5 ideas.”

What’s the outcome of these sessions?  Often it is disappointing.  Sure, the quantity of ideas is impressive.  But what about the quality?  The same recycled ideas are offered, with nothing offered outside existing paradigms. Continue reading

Do you find Joy in your work?

JoyIt’s a sad truth about the workplace: Just 30% of employees are actively committed to doing a good job.

According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report, 50% of employees merely put their time in, while the remaining 20% act out their discontent in counterproductive ways.  These employees are negatively influencing their coworkers, missing days on the job, and driving customers away through poor service. Gallup estimates that the 20% group alone costs the U.S. economy around half a trillion dollars each year.

What’s the reason for the widespread employee disengagement? According to Gallup, poor leadership is a key cause.

Richard Sheridan, Founder of Menlo Innovations, describes an antidote for this lack of enthusiasm.  He claims that “joy” is what is missing from the workplace.  In a recent interview, Sheridan spoke about some of the ways that he purposely designed joy into the way that people work.

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How can I help? The primary question of a servant leader

Help is on the way

“How can I help?”

In what situation are you likely to hear someone ask this question?  Perhaps an associate in a retail clothing store would use this phrase to offer some assistance.  You could hear this phrase from a librarian while  looking for a book or reference.  Maybe you have called a customer service number to ask about a recent purchase.

However, would you expect your manager to inquire, “How can I help?”  when you walked into his or her office?  I wouldn’t.

Equally important, do you use this question as the opening for many of the discussions with your co-workers or those who report to you? Upon reflection, I only occasionally offered these words to my direct reports during the course of my career.

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Are you good at multitasking? Think again!

Multitasking“Raise your hand if you believe that you are pretty good at multitasking”.

When I present this challenge to a group, typically about half of the people in the room respond by lifting their arms in the air.  Then we have a discussion about what multitasking is and why NO ONE has this “skill.”  We also use a simple exercise that demonstrates what is really happening with our brains when we attempt to take on two cognitive tasks at the same time (more about this exercise later).

Dave Crenshaw has blogged and written extensively about multitasking.  His premise is that this phenomenon simply does not exist.  In fact, he calls it a myth.

If you are one of those persons who raised your hand, perhaps you are thinking, “I’ve been juggling many things for a long time and I think I’ve been pretty successful in doing so.  What do you mean there is no such thing as multitasking?”

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Should you invest in growth potential or talent?


“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

– Pablo Picasso

potential, mindsetAs the engineering manager of a large manufacturing facility, Rick had a knack for identifying talent.  Whether he was recruiting on campus or interviewing candidates with some experience, Rick had a set of criteria that guided his decision-making.  It started with GPA and class rank, but also included other accomplishments such as patent applications, publications, research grant awards, and other recognition.  Everyone agreed that Rick attracted the best and brightest professionals to join his staff.  Rick recruited for exceptional talent.

At the same facility, Karen provided leadership for a process control group.  She would accompany Rick on many of the campus recruiting visits.  Karen and Rick pursued their respective candidates from essentially the same pool. However, Karen had a different perspective.  She wanted to learn about each candidate’s work and social background.  She was keen to learn about how they overcame obstacles, struggled to succeed, and learned from their mistakes.  The candidates who received offers to join Karen’s group were often (on paper) “second-tier” talent. Each person had solid grades and had the skills needed for the job, but they were not exceptional.  Karen recruited for growth potential.

What happened when these employees joined the company?  It is a tale of two divergent philosophies.

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Why do some leaders lack influence?

influenceMany people assume that all leaders have the ability to influence others by virtue of their position. This is not always true.

You can be in a leadership role, yet lack influencing skills. Conversely, you can greatly influence others without being a formal leader.

VitalSmarts includes information on their website that outlines the top reasons why leaders lack influence. This post will recap the main points for each of these five reasons.  I will add my own thoughts to those of the authors.

(Note: These concepts are based on the best-selling book Influencer. I have found the model that the authors propose around the six sources of influence to be practical – as well as easy to understand and apply).

Reasons Why Leaders Lack Influence

1. Leaders think it’s not their job.

Most leaders spend very little time consciously influencing others. They believe that their primary job is to come up with big ideas and then to implement them.

The key thought here is having a conscious effort to influence others.  Whether they intend to do it or not, the actions of those in leadership positions have the potential to influence others.  What rarely happens is for the leader to develop a strategic action plan for how to influence their employees on the vital behaviors that they desire. The assumption by many leaders is that if we give people a direction and the resources they need, then good things will happen.

I used to work for a manager who clearly had this mindset.  He became frustrated when much of his organization repeatedly performed work in ways that were counter to his preferred approach.  Yet, he never asked himself how he might influence some of the employees so that they would become more aligned and working on the right things.

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