Want Better Results from Your Team?

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“You do not get milk by beating the cow.” – Robert Heinlein

You won’t get cooperation over the long term through anger and oppression.

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5 Ways to Encourage Creative Thinking

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by James Caan, CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw

March 15, 2013

As the chief executive of a private equity firm I am always on the look-out for the UK’s brightest and most innovative talent. My role as chairman of the Government’s Start-Up Loan scheme has made me become even more aware of the need to be constantly watching for the best creative talent in the country.

Creativity can be a difficult notion to grasp but it is a key talent that is always found at the heart of any successful company. I would say that true creativity, along with drive and self-belief, are the defining characteristics of any successful entrepreneur.

Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognised expert in education, leadership and innovation, has described creativity in an easy to understand and succinct way. He wrote that creativity is “the process of having original ideas that add value”.

That is a straightforward definition, but the real difficulty comes in actually being able to think differently or “out of the box”. It is a very rare and valuable skill to be able to come up with ideas that are truly original and different to anything currently out there on the market.

Creativity always has to be relevant but it is crucial to the success of any business. Without originality, businesses have no way of differentiating themselves from their competitors in the market place. Being different from rivals has become increasingly important in the modern business environment.

Taking all of this into account, I believe it is vital to encourage staff to think differently and this can be done in several ways.

Give your staff the time and the space to be imaginative and creative. Apple is a great example of a company which has benefited enormously from this. Up to a fifth of their working day is given to creative thinking sessions. Innovation is a key characteristic of the company so it is vital for Apple to inspire staff and to give them the space to be original.

Constantly question yourself and your working practices. Instead of sticking with tried and tested methods, business leaders should always be thinking of alternative approaches when it comes to solving issues and problems. Simply posing the question can lead to new ideas and projects, which opens up valuable income streams.

Encourage people to work in groups. That way, ideas can be shared along with responsibility and the credit for success. A company which has an overly competitive and individualistic culture can stifle creativity.

• Not every idea is going to be a great idea but it is important not to ridicule people who are brave enough to think differently from the rest of us. If people are scared of being mocked then they are going to be reluctant to step forward with new ideas.

• Running a business and hitting targets is serious as people’s livelihoods rely on the success of a company – but the creative process needs to be fun. If you want to inspire people to think differently then you have to create the right culture and environment to allow them to do just that.

However it is important to remember that creativity on its own is not enough to guarantee success. The focus should always remain on how to use innovative thinking to make the company financially successful. Stick to these rules and there is every chance you will have a success story on your hands.

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13 Habits of Extraordinary Bosses

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by Geoffrey James Feb. 19, 2013

Extraordinary bosses use these habits to bring out the extraordinary in those around them.

The most popular post I’ve ever written is The Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses. However, while that post clearly struck a chord, it lacked something important: a code of behavior that puts those beliefs into action.

Probably my favorite business book is Sylvia Lafair’s Don’t Bring It To Work: Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success. In that book, Sylvia describes how people can transcend the limitations of their family background to become better workers.

In the process of describing that transformation, Lafair describes a set of habits that define how ideal leaders behave when they’ve got their beliefs aligned the right way. Here they are:

1. They collaborate rather than grandstand.

Extraordinary bosses realize that success doesn’t have to entail only individual accomplishment. They redefine that emotionally-packed word “success” so that wealth, position, and fame are no longer what really matters. They realize that group success is entirely consistent with individual accomplishment.

2. They build communities rather than platoons.

Extraordinary bosses focus on the basic wants and needs of the community and the desire to move from what exists now to what is possible. This creates a groundswell of activity as more and more people feel included and want to help. This allows them to tackle problems at the core, in order to make change happen.

3. They create new realities.

Extraordinary bosses create a sense that all things are possible. Everyone who’s ever faced a daunting challenge knows how important it is to be around somebody who can communicate what seems impossible and see the essence of hope in a haystack of adversity, allowing a business to break through into new markets.

4. They laugh at problems (and themselves).

Extraordinary bosses use humor put worries into perspective, so that we can laugh at ourselves and the situation before tackling hard work. The ability to tell the right joke at the right time reduces office stress and builds camaraderie, which is a real advantage in today’s intense, fast-paced work environments.

5. They help others visualize a better future.

Extraordinary bosses don’t just have a vision of the future. They also have a rare ability to understand and channel the desires and needs of other people. They listen as much as they talk and thus create a shared vision that motivates everybody, not just the boss. They point to a place that we know is better and give us the courage to get there.

6. They avidly explore new ideas.

Extraordinary bosses are always willing to be part of the first test to make sure that a project will succeed. They guide people into new territory, without hogging the limelight. They have a great sense of timing and know when to wait until the kinks have been worked out… without waiting too long.

7. They mentor and coach.

Extraordinary bosses know how to listen and give good advice at just the right time. Because they haven’t sailed through life, they know what it’s like to overcome intense obstacles and challenges. Most importantly, they’re willing to let go when you’re competent to make your own decisions without them.

8. They use stories to inspire.

Extraordinary bosses know that a good story can move people to places where no PowerPoint can take them. They know that stories help people understand how problems can be, and should be, solved. They use stories to close the distance that voicemail, e-mails and texting create between us.

9. They integrate pieces into wholeness.

Extraordinary bosses have the ability to see all sides of a situation and allow conflicting parties to not only be heard but acknowledged. They can gather a group and find ways that individuals can work together. They have an uncanny way of “slicing the pie” so that while every piece may not be identical, everyone feels treated with fairness and respect.

10. They tell the truth, even when inconvenient.

Extraordinary bosses do not change their minds just to pacify someone, although they are not averse to adjusting their opinions if that will enable a conflict to push towards resolution. They do not “beat around the bush,” so you always know where you stand. They treat you as an adult who can handle the truth rather than a child who must be protected from it.

11. They act before they have ALL the answers.

Extraordinary bosses can tolerate and moderate the conflicts that inevitably show up before the creative process comes into full bloom. They enjoy being involved in the thick of arguments, thus allowing problems and dissent to be resolved more quickly so that the creative process can move forward.

12. They create a climate of trust.

Extraordinary bosses know that trust is the glue that holds an organization together. Their commitment to build trust creates a counter force to the deception and political game-playing that makes so many offices difficult places to work. They know that trusting, and being trusted, is the best way to ensure that everyone in the organizations wins.

13. They make peace between factions.

Extraordinary bosses cannot be swayed to side with one group or individual against another but instead work to preserve the integrity of the whole system. Peacemakers teach us that peace is a state of mind and that it’s still possible to be happy even in the midst of turmoil and chaos.

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Geoffrey James writes the Sales Source column on Inc.com, the world’s most visited sales-oriented blog. His newly published book is Business to Business Selling: Power Words and Strategies From the World’s Top Sales Experts. @Sales_Source