Category Archives: Leadership Development

Is Your Leadership Designed for Innovation?

InnovationIs innovation important? Let’s change the question. How would you like to read the same blog article over and over again? Of course you wouldn’t! The value of a good blog is to learn something new!

Without a doubt, innovation matters. Lacking a unique product or service offering, it’s difficult to stand out and gain a competitive advantage. At the very least, continuous innovation allows you to stay relevant compared to others in the market. Ultimately, a failure to innovate is a recipe for failure itself in this fast-moving, global economy.

 

What Role Do You Play?

 As a leader, sometimes it seems like the most important innovations happen when you aren’t looking. For example, while you were busy worrying about the upcoming meeting with shareholders, one of your engineers spent the last few weeks glued to that design program or your product manager decided that the market was ready for something new after months of research. In other words, you may feel like you don’t have much of an impact but the truth is as a leader your role is critical.  How do you ensure the innovators on your team are doing their thing, day in and day out?

At V2A Solutions, we embrace innovative thinking as a competitive way of being. In fact, we notice that as a leader, you inherently impact the innovation process at your business whether you know it or not. This may make sense intuitively, but if you don’t take the time to intentionally lead in a way that innovation is encouraged, it won’t occur.  To that end, let’s take a look at some practical steps you can take to foster innovation in your business.

 

Unleashing Creativity

Simply put, innovation is the creation of something new and improved. It is the ability to see beyond the status quo and consider what might be! Thus, creativity is critical to the innovation process. Again, a very intuitive idea, but not many leaders really make an effort to act in light of that knowledge.  They might talk about how they want the organization to be more creative, but they create policies and procedures which squelch the very opportunity for creativity to happen! This often results from an inability to see innovative opportunities or make time to focus on actions and behaviors that promote creativity. After all, creativity can be a little abstract. However, a metric designed by the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management can be very useful. Specifically, the Global Creativity Index looks at indicators of the amount of resources devoted to technological advancements, how talent is cultivated, and the level of tolerance a nation displays for minority groups. While these metrics were created for measuring the relative creative competitiveness of various countries, there are certainly lessons to be learned for any business owner.

First, businesses should ask themselves whether they are providing their team with sufficient resources to be innovative. For example, asking R&D to create an amazing new product with a small budget is probably not going to get you anywhere. Put your money where your mouth is and lead with your budget.  This takes a measure of faith, but this kind of faith is the catalyst for creativity.

Second, leaders must ask themselves whether they are truly empowering their team to become good innovators. Are they getting the skills and training they need to work collaboratively and produce synergistic results with their fellow employees? What knowledge is needed to reduce set-backs and begin producing the innovative results your business desperately needs?

Third, with respect to tolerance, a leader must ask whether others’ ideas are being respected. After all, for true innovation to take place, the last thing a business needs is groupthink. Again, innovation requires new ideas that often challenge established protocols and norms. Will your employees be willing to speak up and share their unique perspective?

 

Reframe the Experience of Failure

Consider the story of Thomas Edison. When designing the light bulb, you probably know he failed more times than he succeeded, but with each failure he learned one more way not to make a light bulb. Each failure represented an incremental improvement, driving him closer to his ultimate goal.   Shifting how you think about failure will adjust your leadership stance for innovation.

Inherent in the concept of innovation is the risk that must be taken. The status quo may be working, and trying anything but the status quo carries with it the chance for failure. The key is to encourage calculated risks, and when failure takes place, ensure employees learn everything they can from them. Train everyone to see the occasional failure as a learning opportunity.

 

Shaping Culture and Values

Whether you like it or not, as a leader, you are responsible for the culture of your business. Yes, your employees help you shape that culture, but as a leader you set the tone right from the start. As you probably learned long ago, a company’s culture is directly related to corporate values. Unfortunately, we tend to forget that how people think and act is directly related to what they value. In fact, cultural researchers are often able to explain differences between cultures by pointing to differences in cultural values along various dimensions. For instance, the World Values Survey explained 70% of its recorded variance between different nations’ behavior and attitudes by linking it to the values dominating a country.  For example, the degree to which values move in the direction of secular instead of traditional religious values impacts the degree of self-expression and tolerance of divergent lifestyles within a country.

Whether we are talking about a country or a business, the evidence is that values drive action. The best part is, once values are established and live in your business, your team will automatically pursue the right things (based on embraced values) and you won’t have to spend your precious time managing them. Often, rather than establishing annoying policies and procedures, the beliefs and values you promote become a control system built right into your business!

 

Now ask yourself the role your values play in innovation:

Does my company culture indicate that we value innovation? Do we value creativity? Do we value hard work and critical thinking?

With that said, a critical distinction must be made between stated values and lived values. For example, can a company claim that they value creativity and hard work if there are no performance incentives for innovation? Your culture and values must be aligned and authentically pursue innovation. In fact, we know that your business depends on this reality, and that’s why we’re so passionate about developing leaders with the ability to establish effective belief and value systems within their companies in a way that shapes the culture for innovation.

 

To learn more about how V2A Leadership principles encourage innovation and the ways your values can be leveraged, contact us.  We would enjoy the conversation to discover how innovation can help your business become more profitable and aligned with your dreams.

 

Trust in the Marketplace

Trust in the workplace is traced back to the leader creating a safe atmosphere where people can express themselves and be known.

Last week I received an email from one of our client’s key team leaders. She wanted me to know that she was thinking of quitting because the work environment had become so toxic. The CEO knew he had team issues because key employees, like the one above, were stressed and performance was dropping. Excellent employees were forgetting to complete tasks and, frankly, were failing miserably. Word simply spread throughout the team that one of the leaders was no longer safe; one of the leaders changed the atmosphere from a place of self-expression and being known, to an atmosphere of dread. Employees shut down and gritted their teeth. Alone, one leader hi-jacked trust; he became the enemy.

When this recently hired executive arrived, he exuded a helpful demeanor and professionalism. But no one knew what to make of his sudden outbursts and overt displays of anger when his iPad wouldn’t work or a printer wouldn’t print. Under frustration, he would crack. The team avoided him not knowing when his unpredictable outburts would occur. The employee who emailed me had been the uncomfortable object of his wrath and dreaded coming to work from that time, she admitted.

In the years I’ve been coaching and mentoring CEO’s I’ve seen amazing demonstrations of trust and the impact the highest-level ranking leader can make. Trust in the workplace is traced back to the leader creating a safe atmosphere where people can express themselves and be known. We scheduled a team-building workshop for this particular CEO and his executive team. Our afternoon started with a team game that predictably surfaced certain attitudes and behaviors among the members. This team struggled to complete the game as angry and mean directives surfaced. Eventually, other team members shut down; we watched the tension build right before our eyes. Then something amazing happened. It occurred to the CEO during the game that the biggest problem facing his team was a lack of safety and ownership and, by extension, a pervasive sense of distrust. So the CEO said, “We aren’t having success here and I think it is my fault. I’m the worst at this game. Why don’t I trade places with someone so we can see if that helps?” When he owned what the entire team was experiencing, even though he wasn’t the source of the tension, we saw his team transform.

We watched as people immediately began to relax and communicate. The angry offender softened and took some responsibility for his actions. Overall communication improved for the team, even to the point of problem solving, successfully completing the game. That humble and positive move by the CEO created safety. An amazing team dialogue and training time led to confession and apologies among the members. Early the next afternoon, I received an email from the employee who threatened to quit her job. “I’ve just had one of the best days at work, ever,” she wrote. “I am highly encouraged!” Where does an organization really begin in developing trust? Does safety make a difference in building trust?

It is foundational.

I Googled the topic of trust in business and found a plethora of articles and postings. My search yielded at least 20 titles in Amazon for business or relationship books on trust. I am led to believe that trust must be a hot topic. The Wall Street scandal caused by Bernie Madoff has not helped, nor has the broad financial crisis caused by those taking advantage of the trust we once had in the banking and financial institutions. Old school business practices were once rooted in “your word is your bond” and employment for life. Now employees know that everything is temporary while job security is as flimsy as the next economic downturn.

Are we as a society less trusting today than 30 or 50 years ago? I don’t find any evidence there’s been an erosion of trust. But I still ask myself, “has cynicism replaced trust in the workplace and the fabric of our social culture?” The divorce rate might be an indicator that our society lacks sufficient trust to heal our own marriages and persevere through inevitable tough times. Without sufficient safety to develop trust we quit, or worse, stay and give up. In workshops I’ve led and research I’ve conducted it is easy to see that each of us comes into the workplace with a carnival of experiences with trust. People who have abuse in their past struggle with trust and others who don’t have that experience cannot understand the reluctance and caution others have in being trusting. Developing greater levels of trust seems mysterious to most and sheer willpower is not strong enough to permeate the work culture if trust is missing.

Here are the facts I know about trust:

● We each have had trust broken at one time or another

● Broken trust is unique, therefore, building trust requires dialogue

● Trust is fragile and takes effort, even practice, to maintain

● Trust is organic, meaning it can grow over time if nurtured

● Trust cannot exist if we don’t see ourselves clearly and make adjustments

● The highest ranking leader has the greatest influence in creating safe spaces so trust can grow

Trust is dependent on safety. What is needed so you can be more trusting? Or what is needed so you could feel safe, allowing for more transparency?

 

The Importance of Leadership Maintenance

How do you maintain your leadership edge? Is it time for a spring tune-up?

Weekend Work...Last weekend the spring delivery of bark dust arrived for our yard. I scaled the order back from two units last year to a unit and a half this year. Still looks like a lot. Last year the pile stayed in our driveway for months. Not because I wasn’t diligent, in fact I spent almost every weekend clearing weeds and spreading bark dust. I finally hired help to get it done. It was more time consuming than I had anticipated. It was a huge job but when we were done the yard looked great!

I am learning. This year I’ve started pulling weeds earlier, and while they’re still small.

Spreading bark dust is good prevention for weeds and doing it early makes a huge difference. It is still hard work, but I am envisioning that mountain of bark dust moved within the next two weeks and enjoying both my driveway and the yard longer.

Isn’t it similar to maintaining your leadership capacity? Are you aware of the weeds that can sprout in your behavior as CEO or executive? Those habits you are still battling that hamper your ultimate success? How about the changes that have occurred in your business or in people that you aren’t skillfully addressing? Keeping up on the latest insights about how to lead your organization and how to best utilize talent within your organization?
Let me encourage you to think about maintenance of your leadership capacity as one of the best investments you can make. We maintain our yards because we want our home and gardens to look their best. Maintenance of your leadership capacity will allow you to make your greatest positive impact where it is needed.

Here are some maintenance tips from V2A Solutions:

1. Recognize that your best leadership performance comes as the result of practice, just as a professional athlete continues to work on the fundamentals your investment in staying sharp through training and coaching makes a difference. Be conscious about sharpening your skills.

2. Pause and take time to reflect on the leadership impact you want to make this year and seek out training, coaching, or even visiting a leader you admire for insights and inspiration for what you can do to accomplish your outcome objectives.

3. Consider signing up for training or a professional conference and go with a colleague so you can share rides, ideas, and learning practices together. Executives tend to isolate and leadership is a social practice. There is strength and confidence in numbers. Don’t go it alone.

Here are some important leadership maintenance choices offered by V2A Solutions:

• If you haven’t signed up for our regular newsletters you can do so here. You will be notified of updates and other goodies if you are a regular newsletter subscriber. Register now at the right.

• Consider attending the Leadership Results 365, High Performance Teamwork, or Communicating for Results workshops if you haven’t already. You can even get a discount for a refresher class. Each time we run these workshops they get better and graduates know how to best leverage their core nature and use their leadership and management talents with greater skill.

• Check out our new Remarkable Freedom Series of workshops. We are adding experts to the V2A Solutions team who bring their expertise combined with the Vision to Action Leadership™ concepts to bring increased freedom and joy to every aspect of your life. April 21st we are hosting: The Way of Wealth Workshop. Check it out.

Tell us what’s on your mind and how we can best help you. Visit our survey area and let us know what you need most to bring your vision into reality.

Be encouraged,

Larry