Is being the smartest person in the room getting in the way of your growth as a leader?

I can remember back to the first business I ran: I was new to a leadership role and everyday I realized how much more I didn’t know about people and how to lead. One of my key learnings was a few techniques that actually helped give me the freedom and flexibility to focus on my strengths.

It started one day when I realized that almost every customer service decision in the business had to flow through me in some way. Now of course, this helped me keep a pulse on everything that was happening with our customers but it was a trap that I slide right into. Everyone just assumed the easiest thing to do was “just check with Mike.”

Here’s what I learned: when every decision had to flow through me, no one learned and my day was filled with solving problems with no time left to focus on the areas where I created the most leverage (foreshadowing: keep reading to see what getting my leverage back led to).

Here’s what I did to get out of the trap: Continue reading

BIV Boardroom Strategy: Creativity: Are you building it or crushing it?

When it comes to creativity, fear of criticism, judgment, of taking risks and putting your reputation on the line is a huge obstacle.

We’re born creative and continually experience the excitement of that creativity as we grow. Over time, our environment and experiences can cause us to fall into thinking patterns that get in the way of our creativity.

Your job as a leader is to help shift thinking and remove these obstacles:

Play is frivolous. We’re told that children play and adults are meant to be serious. This creates the self-limiting belief that if something starts to feel too much like fun then it can’t possibly be productive work. Start by changing your thought patterns around creativity. The more you let go of the existing beliefs and thoughts that limit you in thinking of new possibilities, the more you can explore creativity. Find small ways to be creative everyday while encouraging the same in others. If you’re interested in watching a truly outstanding creative process in action, search “IDEO Shopping Cart” on youtube.com and watch their process. (Thanks to Cactus Club CEO Richard Jaffray for recommending this video.)

Creativity comes from creative people. When people think that creativity is the job of marketing or PR, they disable their own creativity. Once they understand that creativity is a choice for all of us, not part of a select few people’s job descriptions, the realms of possibility open up substantially. As a leader, consider where you might be categorizing others as “creative” or “not creative.” Work on altering that thought pattern to embrace the idea that we all have that capacity by asking people for ideas on projects when you normally wouldn’t seek their input.

Deciding before you start. If you think you know the answer before you start the creative process, then you may be limiting yourself to a smaller set of possibilities. Instead, view your idea as only one possible solution and look at it from new perspectives. Curiosity creates leverage in brainstorming so ask a lot of questions, considering as many different view points as you can.

Believing there is a “right” answer. When we focus our problem solving on trying to find the “right” answer there’s a tendency to have a narrow focus. This prevents us from exploring the problem or opportunity in favour of trying to “fix it” as soon as possible. Try “reverse brainstorming,” where you reverse the problem or challenge by brainstorming answers to the question “How could we possibly cause this problem.” Once you have a number of ideas to solve the reverse problem, reverse them into solutions for the original problem or challenge.

Stinking thinking. The easiest way to kill a brainstorming session is with killer statements: “We’ve tried that before,” “That won’t work in this market,” “We don’t have the resources/budget” (this one’s my personal favourite). Next time you’re in a brainstorming session with your team, take a positive approach by first getting all the ideas out on the table before debating or discussing any of them.

Fear of failure. When it comes to creativity, fear of criticism, judgment, of taking risks and putting your reputation on the line is a huge obstacle. After all, your ideas may be a complete flop, so it just feels safer to stick to the status quo. As a leader, it’s your job to create the space for people to take the risk. Consider failure as feedback; focus on and celebrate learning, how to move forward, and what to do differently next time.

BIV Boardroom Strategy – Creativity are you building it or crushing it – Sept 2012

Video

Leadership Minute: managing emotional triggers in stressful situations

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BIV Boardroom Strategy: Focusing on past corporate success to build future success

An enormous amount of time and energy gets devoted to solving problems within organizations, all under the pretence that solving those problems is the best way to achieve success, superiority, a competitive advantage and greatness. The challenge is that growing organizations are constantly changing, which inevitably leads to new and more interesting problems to solve. It’s an endless cycle of focusing on problems that means it’s impossible to solve our way to greatness.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative to the traditional problem-solving approach. Appreciative Inquiry was developed by David Copperrider and his associates at Case Western Reserve University in the mid ’80s. It focuses on doing more of what does work: uncovering the high moments in an organization’s history and using the commonalities of those experiences to build a plan to replicate those wins for the future. Sounds like more fun than constantly problem solving, doesn’t it? Here’s how it works and how it can be applied to your business.

Continue reading

BIV Boardroom Strategy: Candid realities about business’ dirty little secret

In an effort to avoid conflict, leaders and team members often conceal their true feelings, withhold their opinions or outwardly agree and go along with the crowd while inside they are vehemently opposed.

For some, this lack of candour also extends to hoarding information or avoiding communicating with others entirely, in an effort to save face or get and stay ahead of the pack.

Strength of the strategic plan and the ability for executives to collaborate cross-silo with their teams depends considerably on trust and respect within and between teams. The willingness to come forward with authenticity and transparency is key to building up that trust and respect.

In Jack Welch’s book Winning, he describes a lack of candour as businesses’ “dirty little secret.” Continue reading

BIV Boardroom Strategy: star power: how to tackle first things first on your company’s strategic objectives list

When you start working on the action plans for your strategic objectives for the year, one of the most important steps is to understand the order of priority of your objectives.

You might think you know what needs to happen first, but your team might not agree with you. The key is to spend time together as a team to rank the order of your objectives using a technique called the Hoshin Star (a variation of matched-pair analysis).

Originally developed for total quality management, the Hoshin Star helps leaders understand the cause and effect connection between objectives to determine the underlying order of importance.

Using this tool to prioritize strategic objectives can serve two purposes: Continue reading

Leadership Minute: Healthy Conflict