Inspire, Enable, Engage, Empower Your Workforce as Never Before and take your Leadership Team toward Becoming Strategic Leadership
Dr. Ted Marra
Professor Dr. Emeritus, Strategic Leadership, Cotrugli Business School
Sr. Partner, Insights Paradigms
The author of the popular online course: Becoming the Strategic Leader in 6 weeks by Cultivating Your Strategic Thinking
For some years now I have watched organisations around the world talking about how their employees are their greatest asset, yet doing little to prove it. Is it any wonder why such a high percentage (60-80% depending upon the research source) of employees are found through this research to be ‘disengaged’ – namely to have little or no emotional attachment to the organisation, waking up in the morning dreading to go to work rather than saying, ‘Wow. I can’t wait to get to work and collaborate with my colleagues and help my organisation be more successful!’
The ‘wake-up call’ has long since sounded on the issue of creativity with what I would consider to be ‘dismal’ and ‘disappointing’ results in too many organisations. Moreover, if innovation is one of the keys to success (which we know it to be), creativity must be a ‘willing driver’ of it – people must ‘want’ to be excited, emotionally charged, switched on, enthusiastic about finding new and better ways to do business, to create and deliver value to all key stakeholders – at least in my mind, but maybe I’m just crazy or senile. Here’s a picture of how I see things:
Together with strategic thinking, the other sorely lacking capability of leadership I have observed is them being creative or doing anything to stimulate or inspire the creativity of their workforce! Both strategic thinking and creativity, by the way, are vital components of Strategic Leadership.
Let’s face reality, how many members of any leadership team of any organisation in the world even keep an ‘Idea Book’ in which at least once a week they answer some or all of the these questions:
- Based upon what I learned today/this week, what is the most important improvement my organisation needs to make to be more successful?
- How will I move it forward?
- Based upon what I learned today/this week, what is one thing I can do to make myself a more effective manager/leader?
- When will I start? Who will notice?
- How has my thinking changed today as a result of what I learned today/this week so that I may be a better “change agent” in my own organisation?
- If I only had 5 minutes to talk with my CEO or Board, what would I tell them based upon what I learned today/this week?
- What were the “wow’s” for me – the most significant learnings from today/this week?
- What new ideas do I have that I would like to implement in my own organisation as a result of what I learned today/this week?
- What new idea have I had today/this week based upon discussions with my colleagues or staff?
- What should we do better or differently starting tomorrow to make this organisation more successful and to ensure our employees are fully engaged and contributing to their full potential?
The answer is probably none - clearly another disappointment because even members of the leadership team – members who often walk away at the end of the year with fat bonuses - still care so little about their own organisation that they can’t take 30 minutes (1% of their time in the office!) once a week to answer at least SOME of these questions. You call that commitment? You call that ‘role model’ behaviour? The fact is that in my 44 years of working with over 160 organizations in 40 countries, I have found 1 CEO who at least, at the end of the day, reflects on what he accomplished!
But the fact remains that every organisation has tremendous untapped potential which goes unrealised day after day. In addition, almost every organisation is faced with the dilemma of having to do more work with fewer or, at best, the same number of people – thus putting the pressure on productivity. Yet when people are overworked long enough they start to experience the ‘burnout syndrome’ and their motivation can begin to decline even in the case of your high-potential people upon whom you often depend upon the most.
So, I believe, that in your organisation you should be wondering and planning, ‘How can I help my people reach their full potential to contribute creatively to the success of this organisation, maintain that motivation to excellence, be more engaged, have fun and to feel good about themselves and their organisation.’
‘Creativity Labs®’ are designed to address that question. It is my belief ‘that nothing in life which is worthwhile is impossible when you inspire and focus the creativity of collective minds working in collaboration’. The concept is also very flexible and can be tailored very quickly and easily to fit each client’s individual needs and priorities – specific areas of focus or priorities, organisational units, timing, content.
The fact is that every human being can be creative. The challenge is that they are often not given the right opportunity which inspires them to be creative. Every person is different – we all bring a unique perspective, an interpretation of life and business which is different from those of any others. Bringing out these differences between people, the latent and diverse ideas which collectively they all have is becoming an increasingly critical factor to the long-term competitiveness and success of an organisation.
If we look at our workforce, we often depend heavily not only on the Leadership Team members but also those we have designated as ‘high-potential candidates’ within our organisations. In fact, too often, ‘high potentials’ are in short supply given the amount of demand for their time. Yet, how often does the Leadership Team take time to be creative? Even ‘high-potentials’ are often buried in projects and solving problems or dealing with crises – not taking the time to be as creative as they could be unless they do it ‘on the run’.
So what about the other 80+% of the workforce including even those we would rank as ‘mediocre or poorer performers or simply those who are ‘disengaged’? In my opinion as stated above, EVERYONE has ideas and higher potential – yes, even the leadership team believe it or not! Leaving out even those you would identify as ‘poor performers’ or your ‘average performers’ means that you are incurring a huge ‘cost of lost opportunity’. Creativity Labs are designed to dramatically reduce that ‘cost of lost opportunity’ by ‘switching on – motivating’ even your average and low performers as never before. Often these people only need the right situation to begin to enjoy creating – to enjoy what they are doing and use more of their potential! What if every one of these individuals had a great idea on how to improve productivity but it was never discovered? What would be your ‘cost of lost opportunity’?
Yes you could bring in De Bono to discuss the ‘Six Hats’ or another consultant and spend lots of money. The answer really, to me, is keeping it simple and doing a ‘train the trainers’ approach to train a select group of high-potential people or others to facilitate these sessions – very much as was done at GE with their famous ‘Workout’ sessions. I want ‘no one left behind’ – ‘no one left out’ – ‘no one who is not given an opportunity to show their creativity whether latent or active’. You should feel the same way about your people.
An Overview of the Approach
Based upon many years of working with organisations globally, I will share a brief outline of the programme I utilise. If you have some interest or if you would like to collaborate or partner with me this programme or make other arrangements, I am open to discussion.
Here is how I have found it works best based upon my experience.
- This programme is flexible in a number of ways, minimises the amount of time of employees, but maximises the generation of ideas
- There can be 5 – 9 sessions
- There can be 5 to 12 participants which includes one session in which a select number of customers and suppliers are invited to participate
- Participants can be, depending upon number, be put into 1-3 teams
- Sessions can be co-facilitated or there can be a single facilitator
- There are 2-3 sessions with an ‘external’ focus and 2-3 sessions with an ‘internal’ focus
- Each session is normally 2 hours, but may run as long as 3 hours
- Sessions can be once per week, say every Thursday from 10:30 AM until 12:30 PM or it is possible to accelerate the overall programme by having 2 sessions per week on Tuesday and Friday in some cases
- Each primary session consists of 5 parts as well as the incorporation of a few key quality and NLP techniques. These parts include, but are not limited to:
- Creative activity which, in some cases utilise NLP techniques and others which I have found to be the best at unlocking creativity of participants in organisations around the world
- Prioritising and organising ideas generated utilising specific criteria, affinity diagrammes, multi-voting techniques and rating scores.
- A glimpse of what will be discussed at the next session – no official homework (although this can be optional) as I have found that the level of creativity is higher when there is spontaneity involved rather than advanced planning.
- There are, normally, 6 primary sessions (but again this is flexible and can be 4-6)
- As mentioned above, 2-3 would have an ‘external focus’ for example thinking about ways that the organisation could make it easier for customers or suppliers to do business with the organisation
- One of these sessions would include a select number of actual customers and suppliers – distributed across the creativity teams
- At the end of this integrated session a select number of members of the leadership team would be invited in just to have some informal social time with the Creativity Team members, customers and suppliers and take the opportunity to thank the customers and suppliers and creativity team for their efforts
- These ‘externally focused sessions’ would be followed by 2-3 sessions having an ‘internal focus’. A topic such as how can we make the internal working relationships better in the organisation to gain efficiency and quality and reduce cost may be a focus.
- In the last internal session 4 - 5 members of the leadership team – not the usual suspects, but may include the CEO, CIO, CFO, others would be invited and would form one team on their own.
- This session would be somewhat competitive and we would see if the leadership team can be creative and how their creativity compares to that of the other Creativity Team employees. All teams would have a common focus.
- To begin the entire process there would be a 3 hour ‘launch’ session
- The next to last session would involve pulling all the ‘big’ ideas (specific criteria) from each of the previous launch, external and internal sessions, prioritising them, exploring their benefits to key stakeholders and preparing the presentation to the Leadership Team
- In the last session, the Creativity Team with support from the facilitator(s) presents to the entire Leadership Team providing their list of prioritised ideas and benefits
- The Leadership Team, again with input from the facilitator(s), selects ideas to move forward.
- At this time, sponsors/owners from the leadership team are selected for each idea selected. Members of the Creativity Team are given ‘right of first refusal’ to participate in development of the action plan and its implementation. It may be that a ‘high-potential’ employee would be the Creative Team Implementation Leader’.
- It is suggested that a select group of employees – high-potential, leadership and/or others be trained to conduct these session in the future to keep the momentum and excitement going. I am certain that a ‘breakthrough’ idea will evolve at some point, but all the ideas selected for implementation will inevitably create and deliver greater value to key stakeholders and enhance the organisation’s competitiveness and long-term profitable growth
So the above is the concept in a ‘nutshell’ and it is working well. Let me know if you have any interest in joining in or in offering suggestions on improvement. Clearly I have not spelled out all the details in the process, but the above should provide you with some good insight into how it might work in your organisation and we all know that our organisation can benefit from an increased number of quality ideas!
Let the ‘light bulb’ shine bright!
Would you like to become a strategic leader? Join the popular online course: Becoming the Strategic Leader in 6 weeks by Cultivating Your Strategic Thinking