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Encouraging employees to innovate
10 ways to build a culture of positive change
Leadership springs from innovation and the commitment to positive change. That’s why any employee at any level can lead and lead well. Are you ready to be a change agent and innovator?
If you’re not sure about the importance of innovation in the workplace, consider this: Innovation is the essential difference between the most successful businesses and all of the rest. Just ask Amazon, Netflix and Uber. Innovation will allow your company to thrive among competitors who are struggling just to survive.
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND INNOVATION
Change initiatives are emotionally and mentally difficult for most employees. This means that you must be ready and able to act as an anchor in rough seas for your team. It may seem counter-intuitive to provide stability while fostering change, but the right kind of stability prepares your team to handle any situation.
When leading through company change, flexibility, creativity and a clear vision of goals are necessary attributes. Are you able to promote change while lending support to your team? Assess your performance during challenging times and take concrete steps to improve it.
BEING OPEN TO CHANGE
So many of us fear change, and that fear causes us to react with hostility or tentativeness when decisive action is needed. Being open to change means knowing your personal strengths and weaknesses in the context of dynamic situations and using your insight about your own limitations and capabilities to shape your future actions. It also means using constructive criticism as a powerful means to build new competencies. All of these are essential to successful innovation.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LEADERSHIP
The leader who is committed to learning new skills and sharpening existing ones is modeling great behavior for others. The “lifetime learning leader” also teaches his or her team that professional development makes innovation possible. As we expand our toolbox at work, we are better able to master challenges and generate creative solutions, and everyone around us is likely to follow suit.
AUTHENTIC TEAMWORK AND LEADERSHIP
Leaders facilitate, not intimidate. Strong leaders don’t need to pander employees because they earn loyalty and buy-in from their team. Monitor how much you’re talking in meetings compared with how much time you spend listening. Remember to include others by asking for their input and value it by giving them your attention.
When you do need to disagree, be constructive and try framing serious criticisms with supportive remarks. Let your team know that innovating isn’t socially dangerous by being receptive to new ideas.
MAXIMIZE YOUR RESOURCES TO INNOVATE
Are you resourceful in your leadership? More and more teams in every industry are being asked (or required) to do more with less, but maximizing your resources means much more than that. Find a way to make old, familiar resources do new things, and you’ll find that you are getting “double duty” by re-purposing these resources into new (and perhaps improved) documents and sources to rely on in the future.
Similarly, engineer your work life to eliminate clutter. Distill your toolkit and strategies so that each element produces perceivable results. Each time you are asked to do less with more, realize that you are being invited to innovate and do more with your personal resources.
UNDERSTAND AND LIVE OUT CORE VALUES EVERY DAY
Core values don’t just belong on an “About Us” page. They should communicate everything your business stands for in terms of the public’s perception and you and your team’s values. Work to deepen your understanding of your core values by analyzing their function as you tackle new challenges. Which values are allowing you to innovate and achieve more success? Can your team members explain what the values are and how they function within their work each day?
Be introspective so you can identify any core values that seem out of place in the current context of your business. If you find core values that seem to have been left behind or no longer signify the mission of your business, decide whether you need to adapt and improve them for the long haul.
UNDERSTAND YOUR FAILURES
You have the power to invoke progress for your business and in your industry, but you must first identify your obstacles. If you can’t figure out what’s holding you back, you can’t move past them. Use your business plan and strategies as reference points for your examination of the business to see what obstacles you need to eliminate in order to move forward. Your targeted innovations are the tools that will get you past those challenges.
CONNECT YOUR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES WITH YOUR METRICS
Why would you fail to use metrics when they can show you exactly how your business is doing? And more importantly, why would you use metrics if you didn’t put them in context within your business strategy?
Keep a constant eye on the relationships between your products or services and the behavior of your customers. Use your metrics to discern what’s working and what might be better. Use the numbers, not your gut, to adjust strategies and assess how effective your business plan is. If you make data-backed innovations week by week, you will see better performance over time.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR INNOVATION GOALS
You want to hit each and every business target, but you can’t do that without taking aim. Creating, nurturing and promoting a vision for your business allows you that kind of successful aim. It also shows you exactly where you need innovation the most. Whether it’s your marketing strategy or your customer relationships, a creative approach to your existing goals fosters innovation.
MAKE STRATEGY PART OF EVERY WORKDAY FOR A HEALTHY CULTURE OF INNOVATION
Your annual meeting shouldn’t be the only place where your business strategy is discussed and modified. Strategy and innovation should be part of your day-to-day organizational culture. Even when you’ve made a series of impressive changes, innovation shouldn’t stop. Each day you can anticipate the needs of your customers and make progress toward innovations that will pay off in the future.
Innovation culture isn’t about being 100% high tech or changing the face of your company in a day. It’s about the kind of incremental, productive changes that can happen every day when you prioritize innovating. When you make innovation and strategy part of each workday, you’ll have a better perception of how to ensure your business’ success.