Be A Creative Leader

images-1Let’s face it… sometimes it’s just MORE WORK to do something with more creativity.

As leaders, we are often looking for the easiest way and the quickest way to get something done. We’ve got too much on our “to-do list”, we don’t have a lot of energy, so we look for easy and quick.

I want to tell you: easy and quick is not the best way to do something. I would argue that when you choose “easy and quick”, you are doing a disservice to your staff, to the mission of your organization, and to yourself.

I was recently reading a blog on creativity, and the author wrote this: “Creativity isn’t something you DO – it’s a way you approach life and everything in it.” (Annie’s Post)

Often we approach creativity by adding it to our list, instead of making it a habit and the way we approach everything that comes across our plate: our staff, our organization, our board, our family, our community, our church.

Creativity adds LIFE to everything we do!

I had a music teacher in Junior High School that approached life with creativity. He dressed creatively (some called it crazy, but when you’re in Junior High, it’s really cool!), he wore his hair crazy, he taught his classes with life and energy, and he was different than any other teach I had ever had to that point. He also instilled in my life a love for classic rock music and I find myself often humming the songs he taught us to sing.

I had an English teach in High School that realized that you can teach a lot of English by getting out of the classroom. I remember when our class went to her home to learn to make bread and then we wrote about it. That day and the lessons still stand out to me. She was unconventional, but she was still committed to teaching.

When you’re creative, you’re not compromising your purpose, your HIGHLIGHTING it.

So, as we finish or focus on creativity in leadership, let me encourage you with a couple of things:

#1) Being Creative Is MORE Work, but it’s ALWAYS worth it!

#2) To become more creative in your LEADERSHIP you need to add creativity to your LIFE!

#3) People ALWAYS remember creativity or even the EFFORT towards being more creative.

#4) It’s EASY to do things like you’ve always done them, but this doesn’t make that RIGHT!

#5) In your SEARCH for greater creativity, you’ll have FUN and you’ll experience some JOY if you’re looking for it.

As I write this post to you, I’m writing it to myself. Next week I have a 1-hour presentation, and after looking at my notes and my slides, I realize that it’s boring, it’s predictable and it’s non-engaging. I need to re-work this presentation because I want it to be memorable, impactful and life-changing!  Back to the drawing board…

Tip Sheets on CREATIVITY

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Getting Outside That Box

imagesHave you ever been told you need to think outside the box? You then wonder what that really means.

When it comes to thinking outside the box, we need to realize that the walls of the box (the thing that limits or controls our thinking) is usually made up of one of four walls. In order to think outside that box, we need to knock down or break through at least one of those walls.

So, let’s look at the four walls of our box, and ask four questions, one for each wall. If we can remove one of those walls, we may discover a whole new area and way of thinking.

Wall #1 Am I limited by Tradition? “But, we have always done it like that!” can be a good statement, it can also be a limiting statement. If we can only consider doing something because traditionally we have done it that way, we will be limiting our creativity.

Many organizations have unchallenged traditions, things they have ‘always’ done and people who have ‘always’ done them. The leader needs to ask, “Wonder if…”. Maybe doing it in a different way or maybe not doing something you have ‘always’ done.

Wall #2 Am I limited by Pride? “What will people think?”   The leader who is more concerned with impressing people or worried about what ‘they’ think will always be limited in his creativity. Yes, your new idea may fail! But, you will not know until you try. Do your best to do it right and then ride it out. If it proves itself to be a bad idea, admit it was your decision and correct it. Never, never blame someone else.

Wall #3 Am I limited by Fear? “What happens if it doesn’t work?” This is a partner to pride. We all have some concern about trying something new. Do your best to study, plan, announce and implement, then keep a close eye on it and see what happens. Correct it as you go or stop it if it isn’t right. Let people know you don’t always have all the answers and could be making a mistake, but, do it because it is the right thing to do.

Wall #4 Am I limited by Resources? “How could we ever pull that off?” Sometimes money or personnel limits us in new directions. Concerning money, good thing green-touch.org is there to accept people’s loan application whenever they are out of money. If you want to know how to apply at their loan offers,see more at greentouch.org. Find people to help you. See if someone already on the team could do what needs to be done. Maybe divert some funds to try something new. If it is worth doing, it may be worth the effort to give it a try.

You are the leader, in fact, you are sometimes called ‘the agent of change’. Make sure you are not limited by things that you can change. Don’t let yourself be ‘boxed’ in.

For more on CREATIVE LEADERSHIP, CLICK HERE

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Creative Staff Meetings

team-meeting-clipart-1Your time connecting with your staff on a regular basis should be one of the most important meetings you have, so put some energy into it to make it ENGAGING, ENLIGHTENING and EMPOWERING.

This morning I was asked for some ideas on ways to make staff meetings more creative.

Here are some ideas, and these come from years of learning what works and from learning what doesn’t work!

ENGAGING:

The meeting needs to become a regular part of your organizations culture. With that in mind, find a time to meet that works best for a majority of your staff, and then make it a priority. Create an expectation that people are going to attend, and they’re going to participate.

Do the work of setting some time aside to prepare for this regular meeting. Set up the room, create an agenda, celebrate some people and activities, and come prepared.

Staff meeting should never become something that you do because you always do it. It should be the most important meeting of the week, and people should want to come because this is where they get a pulse on what’s going on in the organization and in their teams life.

ENLIGHTENING:

Don’t use staff meeting to communicate things that you can communicate in an email or a memo. Use whatever means possible to communicate information.

Use staff meeting to get people input, to ask questions and clarification, to share new vision and opportunities, and to connect personally with team members.

Your team should walk away from your staff meeting with tangible information and deeper relationships. If this isn’t happening, then you’re missing something!

EMPOWERING:

Model for your staff how meetings should be run. You do this be being prepared, by making it a priority and by being fully engaged with the team. Here are 10 simple things that will help:

  1. Have an agenda and a purpose. If you don’t, then the meeting is a waste of time.
  2. Start on time. As the leader, NEVER be late, and NEVER be unprepared.
  3. Celebrate together. Make the meeting fun and engaging. Get creative! Think outside the box. Surprise them with ice cream, have a special guest show up, honor someone for something they did. Keep your team anticipating what is coming next!
  4. Eliminate distractions during the meeting by collecting cell phones, turning off the phone, putting a notice on the front door. This let’s people know that the most important thing going on is happening in the meeting!
  5. Expect people to be present. If they don’t show up, call them and find out why they didn’t attend. Make this an “expectation” of your staff.
  6. Talk about themes and topics that affect the entire staff. If you do conversations that don’t affect everyone, you’ll lose people. Do those in specific meetings. Keep the topics general for everyone.
  7. Let people talk, share, participate. As the leader, don’t do all the talking.
  8. End the meeting on time. Let them know what the time expectancy is and honor that.
  9. Be flexible to change your plans when you need to. Example: Someone shows up that has just had a personal tragedy. Stop what you’re doing and care for the team member, together. Don’t be so bound by your agenda that you miss the important things.
  10. Be the leader. Use this time to cast vision, to remind people of why we’re all here, and to thank people for their work and their commitment. Staff meeting is your platform to connect and lead the team. Take it seriously and don’t underestimate the value!

Don’t try to do all of these things in every meeting, but take some steps towards adding value and purpose to the times you gather together with your staff.

 

Here are some additional tools for Team Meetings:

For more on Running Good Team Meetings

For Do’s and Don’ts for Team Meetings

For Why Meetings Don’t Work

For How Do You Create An Agenda

Posted in Leadership Coaching, Organizational Development, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

The Creativity Two-Step

imagesOver the years I have tried to help or at least encourage leaders to do their job and respect the position.

One of the things that bugs me, is when a leader will explain their lack of doing or solving something by saying, “…But, I am just not creative”.

It sounds to me when I hear that like it is from:

  • A burned out leader who has lost their passion for the future/direction of their organization,
  • A cowardly leader who is not willing to take a risk because of fear or pride, or,
  • A selfish leader who is not willing to sacrifice for the greater good, or,
  • A lazy leader who is not willing to do the work necessary to do their job right.

Sorry! But, I really believe that vision and creativity are learned by leaders who are not willing to let status quo or failure rule their organization. I think these qualities are developed through hard work by leaders who want their organizations to move ahead and have the passion for their calling, and are willing to take the risk and willing to sacrifice in order to solve the problem. They never give up!

Let me tell you how to be creative in just two steps!

STEP ONE: STOP SAYING YOU ARE NOT CREATIVE!

When you say that, you take your foot off the throttle and go into a coasting mode, waiting for something else to happen. You have lost control of the solution process. You will start looking for ways to work around the problem, or making excuses for not dealing with the problem, and the problem will remain. Unfortunately, people and boards have allowed leaders to say that. A leader leads and you are the leader. So, do the job. Solve the issue. Now, move on to step two!

STEP TWO: START SAYING LET’S SEE WHAT WE CAN DO!

Identify the thing you want to change or solve and attack it. Give it your attention.

(1) That may mean asking someone else for advice. That person could be in your organization or they could be in another organization. Don’t hide the problem, announce the need for a solution and see what comes. People have ideas and some of them are good.

(2) Check the web. Today there are so many ideas on the web. If you are willing to do the work and read them, you may come up with an idea that will work in your situation.

(3) Visit another organization and see how they handle the situation. Perhaps they have had to solve the same issue and would be willing to help you.

(4) Get people you trust in the same room. Spell out what questions you need answered and let them share ideas. One of those ideas may be perfect for you.

The solutions don’t have to be your solutions. But, you as the leader, need to find them.

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It’s Time for a Kick!


imgres (1)Being creative takes work.

Sometimes I just want to do things the easy way, the simple way, the way that requires the least amount of effort. Sometimes I don’t even care if what I’m doing has meaning, I just want to get through it.

Do you find yourself here? Do you feel at times that you just want to “get through it”? Do you want to put it the “least amount of effort possible”?

Take a minute and think about some the most memorable speakers or communicators you’ve heard in your lifetime. Do you remember them because of “what” they said, or because of “how” they said it?

For me, it’s the “how”. People that approached a topic differently then others, people who put effort and creativity into a presentation,people who surprised me:  They’re the ones I remember.

One stands out: I was at an international conference in Illinois years ago, and one of the speakers, a global statesman, in the middle of his presentation, pulled his pants down and showed us his boxers that were covered with a map of the world. He then went on to talk about the world and how important it is that we have a global perspective.   I remember that talk. I remember the illustration, and I remember how it caught be off guard. He took a huge risk, and created a historical moment that not only I can remember years later, but thousands continue to talk about.

I have a book on my shelf from 1986 by Roger von Oech. It’s called “A Kick In The Seat Of The Pants” and it’s a book about creativity. Von Oech’s approach to creativity is that sometimes we need a swift kick to get us out of the rut we’re in, to get us out of the routine and the boring. He writes about different styles of creativity. He writes:

“It’s difficult to get your creative juices flowing if you’re always being practical, following rules, afraid to make mistakes, not looking into outside areas, or under the influence of any of the other mental locks.” (Roger von Oech)

He goes on to say: “By the time the average person finishes college, he or she will have taken over 2,600 tests, quizzes, and exams. The right answer approach becomes deeply ingrained in our thinking. This may be fine for some mathematical problems where there is in fact only one right answer. The difficulty is that most of life isn’t this way. Life is ambiguous; there are many right answers – all depending on what you’re looking for. But if you think there is only one right answer, then you’ll stop looking as soon as you find one.” (Roger von Oech)

The challenge today to learn to think outside the box.

  • To not settle for easy, quick or effortless.
  • To keep looking for the “best” answer and approach, not what’s most attainable
  • To allow creativity to push you to think and to answer to question, “what if…..”
  • To wake up to an incredible word around you, full of opportunity, lessons and practical applications.

This is a KICK for each of you.  I’ve been KICKED, and it’s time to wake up and not settle.

Today, approach something in a way you’ve never approached it before. Be creative. Put some effort into looking at it a different way. You’ll be amazed how fun, how rewarding and how fulfilling this approach is. It might even stick with you!

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BRAINSTORMING: Focused Imagination

imagesBRAINSTORMING is one of my favorite things to do. I call it ‘focused imagination’.

Most of us day-dream about ‘what if?’ or different levels of problem solving like ‘how to apologize to someone’ to ‘how to build a better whatever’.

BRAINSTORMING is imagining, or day dreaming out loud. It tends to happen in a group, so you are sharing your dreams, your ideas in front of people.

Many people totally discount their ideas or their dreams. They are embarrassed to share them because they have not solved all the problems or issues related with them. They are just ideas. They are afraid people will point out the inconsistencies or impossibilities so they hesitate to share them.

BRAINSTORMING is taking ideas, dreams and accepting the fact that they are unfinished, maybe even impossible, yet considering them and allowing them to carry our imaginations to other ideas and dreams, maybe even solutions.

There are rules that have to be recognized and accepted for brainstorming to work:

  1. Brainstorming starts by presenting a fixed issue to be discussed or a problem to be solved.
  2. There should be a guide person, or chairperson for the discussion so you keep moving from idea to idea. Solutions will come later.
  3. Anything goes in brainstorming. No idea can be told that it is bad. People can take turns speaking or just speak as an idea comes that they want to contribute.
  4. Remember this is an imagination gathering session. No long stories. No rejection of ideas.
  5. Each participant should finish their thought before another person speaks unless they speak in support of the idea, and actually help develop the idea.
  6. It is customary to move rather rapidly from idea to idea, so be sure each person knows that just because you didn’t dwell on their idea, that doesn’t mean it was bad.
  7. If an idea seems to solve the issue, then move to ideas for developing that idea.
  8. Do not try to develop a total response in that first session. Leave the development and structure of the idea to others better suited to that task.
  9. Thank everyone involved. If the idea is used to solve a problem, publicly thank the group.
  10. Inform everyone involved in the original brainstorming session of the way you will use their ideas, especially if a solution was found.

BRAINSTORMING has a good side: It brings people together to be creative and to share ideas and to feel like they are a part of the solution.

BRAINSTORMING also has a bad side: It lets a bad manager pretend to involve people when he has already decided his course of action. It also can waste a lot of time.

BRAINSTORMING is a tool that can be used to discover (1) what your fellow workers think, (2) solutions for problems, and (3) allow for a group interaction.

BRAINSTORMING is only useful if something comes from it.

 

For more on LEADERSHIP CREATIVITY, CLICK HERE

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The Back Side of Influence

imagesI think when you talk about ‘getting things done’ you have to include a conversation about ‘influence’.  But, you need to talk about the ‘back side’ of influence.  So, I am not going to talk about the influence of the words you say.  That’s obvious! Your words have a powerful influence and people’s lives can be changed by just your words of correction or recognition or encouragement or instruction.

I won’t talk about the influence of your actions either.  They are equally vital, because of what people think when they see you do what you do.  People who perhaps think that by copying you, it will make a difference in their life.

No, I want to talk about the ‘back side’ of influence.  That would be what people think when you are no longer there. After you leave the room, when the meeting is over, when you have left the platform…what do people say about you?

Was there something you did that will stick in their mind?  Maybe how you said it, or how you responded, or how you acted, or how you treated them that will be the thing that influences them the most.  If you don’t like ‘back side’, we could call it your ‘after glow’…there is a powerful influence there, and, I believe that is where your credibility and legacy is built.

That’s when people say, I want to be like that guy…thinking of your style or attitude.

Today, people seem to take pride in ‘doing their own thing’, in ‘breaking the mold’, in ‘pioneering their own trail’.  They really don’t seem to care what people think, but they should because people have unspoken expectations of a leader that seems to give birth to things like respect and appreciation.

That respect and appreciation has nothing to do with words and actions, but what they think about when they think of that leader, his integrity, his character, his passion and his respect for the position.

I have discovered, in recent days that my model was the president of the college where I worked for 10 years.  I find that I think about how he would do this or that when I am in different situations.  I have even found that I have some of his hand gestures when I speak and his style of listening when someone is talking to me.  It is amazing.  How did I ‘catch’ that?  How did that happen?

He did a lot of things and said a lot of things, but the part of him I wanted to be like, the part that influenced me the most was his person, who he was, his values and passions…his ‘after glow’.  That’s what I seem to have copied into my own leadership style.

Think about the people that have impressed you, the leaders that have helped shape your life.  What was it about them that you appreciated?  What was it that you wanted for yourself?

So, what are you leaving behind as you go along?

Posted in Leadership Community, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , ,

Say No to Say Yes

P40B-man-with-board-saying-noWe all want to GET THINGS DONE. There is nothing as frustrating as seeing things stagnate, fall through the cracks or going south.

If you want to get things done you need to know what those things are.

In order for us to do that, we need to stop and decide what our priorities are and stick with it…and to say “no” to everything else.

Here are 4 reasons why saying “no” is a blessing

  • Getting others to step up

Someone once told me that I should not “rob” my team from opportunities to grow and take risks. At first I did not know what this meant, later I realised that it was all about smart and intentional delegation. If we say no it will give others the opportunity to step up. This is not saying no to tasks that we want to avoid, but to the things that are not important for ME to do. The results will be amazing – the development of the others around you. A warning: If others step up it will probably look a bit different that when you do it – but isn’t that what we want? Creativity, Growth, New Ideas?

  • Say yes to what is more important

It is crazy how much of our time can easily be consumed with issues that are not important or not our core business. When last have you taken time to pray about, evaluate and list the things that you believe God wants you to focus on? The other day a man cancelled on an speaking engagement he committed to a long time ago and his answer was simply this: “I am so sorry, I’ve realized that I had to come back to my main calling”. I was not upset, in fact, I had so much respect for him.

  • It kills the people pleaser in me

If we have to be honest, many of us struggle to say no because we do not want to “let others down”. This, friends, in the deepest form, is pride. Therefore, even if it is only for this reason – to kill the people-pleaser in me, it is reason enough to say no. We cannot please everyone. Even our Lord Jesus said no to a lot of people, He was only set on pleasing his Father in Heaven through doing what He was called to do.

  • To be healthy/balanced

A result of not saying no is that it brings health and balance in our lives. The tendency is for people to always expect a lot from leaders and the sad result is unhealthy, overworked and tired leaders. The sad reality is that the ones that really suffer under this are the closest people and most important people – our families. It is possible to live a healthy, balanced life where you have margin in your day, intentional time with family and energy.

We need to say no to the unimportant things so that we can say yes to the things that really matter.

More on GETTING THINGS DONE

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Learn to Focus

imagesToday is a perfect example of an issue I deal with on a regular basis. I wonder if you fall into the same trap.

I started the day by doing all of the RIGHT things:

  • I made my list
  • I determined my priorities
  • I allocated time in my schedule to get things done
  • I told the people around me my plan for productivity today

Then, I sat down and spent an hour trying to figure out where to start:

  • I cleaned my desk off
  • I emptied my trash can
  • I made a second cup of coffee
  • I watched a short video clip that showed up on Facebook that had nothing to do with anything
  • I thought about some other things I need to add to the list
  • I had another cup of coffee

I’m already over 60 minutes into the “Getting Things Done” zone, and I have no idea how to start.

Some days, it’s like this. Other days, I can just dive in and move straight into productivity

Nadia Goodman shares on entrepreneur.com that there are 3 things any of us can do that will increase our ability to focus.

I’ll share her 3 points, and I’ll comment personally on them. To read her full article, CLICK HERE.

#1) Do Creative Work First

Goodman shares, “Typically, we do mindless work first and build up to the toughest tasks. That drains your energy and lowers your focus.”

How many times do we begin our day by responding to unimportant emails and social media, by using energy that doesn’t require us to think, by doing repetitive tasks.  We are at our best when we’re fresh, when we are beginning the day and when we have the most energy.

FOCUS on the things that require the most thought, energy and creativity first.

#2) Allocate Your Time Deliberately

“Notice where and when your focus best, then allocate your toughest tasks for those moments.”

Just because we have a desk in our office, this doesn’t mean that this is where we’ll be able to be the most focused. For me, getting out of my office and walking around the block enables me to think clearly and to look at a situation from a different perspective.

FOCUS comes when you learn where you work best and when you work best.

#3) Train Your Mind Like a Muscle

“We’ve trained our brains to be unfocused”

Multitasking is a really bad habit. We often praise it, but we’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted by too many things at the same time, which limits our ability to focus and give something our full attention.

FOCUS requires us to use discipline to look at the task at hand and nothing else.

So, now I get back to the task at hand. Tomorrow I’ll try these three things and determine if I can avoid the distractions that face me every day.

What about you?

For more on GETTING THINGS DONE

A Two-Minute Training on MAKING YOUR LIST

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Getting Things Done

imagesI was at a conference on Emotionally Healthy Leaders with Peter and Geri Scazzero. Pete said to me, “I can tell – you are a high capacity producing leader.” I was surprised by his comment. What did he mean? It is true that I get a little frustrated with my life if I am not producing. I get bored easily if there is not enough to do. There are two concepts that have helped me become a high capacity producing leader.

The book by Stephen Covey on Highly Effective Leaders helped me prioritize. The book called The 80 20 Principle – The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less By John Koch helped me focus.

  1.  Covey taught me amazing things from the Urgent VS Important quadrants. This gave me a perspective and permission to say no to things that were not important. Learning to live in the Important and Urgent quadrants help us get more things done. We still have to do some quadrant II things – Not Urgent but Important things as well. But I have tried to minimize the quadrant III and IV as much as possible.

Backofcardv0_8

 

  1. John Koch in his book The 80/20 Principle – The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less taught me the importance of focusing on the most productive time of the day. John Koch explains this 80/20 principle:

images

“The 80/20 Principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs or rewards. Taken literally, this means that, for example, 80 per cent of what you achieve in your job comes from 20 per cent of the time spent. Thus for all practical purposes, four-fifths of the effort—a dominant part of it—is largely irrelevant” (pg 4).

This speaks to something really important – 80% of the work you and I produce every day is completed in 20% of our time. Let´s discover when that time is. When do I produce the most in my day? I have discovered that I produce the most between 9am and 11am. Sometimes I can stretch it until 12 noon. So, applying the Covey quadrant of important things to the Koch principle of production we can produce more – get more done.

I want to do the most important things of my day in the time when I am most productive. Therefore, I make a list of the most important things in my day and I focus on completing them during my productive time of the day – for me that is 9am till 11am.

So, I challenge you to do two things:

  1. Make your own Urgent vs Important Quadrant. What are the things that are most important to get done in your day? In your week? In your life?
  2. Discover when your most productive time of the day is. When is it that you produce 80% in 20% of your time?

Once you have both of these figured out – put them together and watch how you get a lot more done each day.

To purchase The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, CLICK HERE

To purchase The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch, CLICK HERE

Both of these books are must haves!

For more on GETTING THINGS DONE

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