5 Tips to Help Your Team be More Creative

Today’s guest post is from Mark Miller. Mark, co-author of Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life, is vice president, training and development, for Chick-fil-A. He began his Chick-fil-A career in 1977 working as an hourly team member. He is the author of The Secret of Teams and is the coauthor of The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do with Ken Blanchard. Follow Mark Miller on Facebook and Twitter. For more information please visit http://greatleadersgrow.com and http://greatleadersserve.org.

In today’s challenging economic times, creative thinking is more valuable than ever. Not creative for creativity’s sake — creativity to solve real business problems. Many of the ideas of the past are no longer relevant. As a seasoned leader shared with me recently, “The half-life of ideas is decreasing rapidly.” So what’s our response? We need more and better ideas. The good news: creating new, value-added ideas is what teams do best. However, creativity in a team environment is not automatic. There are some things that leaders can do to increase the creative output of their team. Here are a few ideas to get you started . . .

Expect it — When you establish the role of your team, be sure to highlight the expectation that the team will create fresh, new solutions to the problems you face.

Train it — The skills of creativity can be learned. To learn them, they must be taught. Schedule time to conduct training for your team. This can take many forms. It can be as brief as a micro session on effective brainstorming (before your next brainstorming session) to multi-day training sessions and everything in between. The point is simple — train your team on the skills of creativity.

Practice it — Creative thinking and problem solving are skills — just like golf, tennis or a foreign language. Like any skill, you get better with practice. Look for opportunities for your team to practice the skills you’ve learned. Practice builds competence and competence builds confidence.

Recognize it — The actions that you reward will be repeated. That’s human nature. That’s one reason you need to recognize not just the successes but the effort as well. Not every creative endeavor will be successful. That’s normal. If you’ve been operating in a culture in which creativity has not been valued, recognizing creative effort will be even more critical. People are paying attention. They want to know if it’s really safe to voice new ideas.

Model it — People always watch the leader — whether we want them to or not. Do your people see you embracing creative ideas? Do they see you engaged in the process of creating new ideas? You can accelerate the adoption of creative thinking as a skill if you personally get in the game. If you don’t, you’ll need to temper your expectations of groundbreaking new ideas from your team.

Teams are probably at their best when they’re engaged in the creative process. They are leveraging their collective wisdom and experience to create what previously did not exist. One of the most satisfying and productive things leaders can do is create the conditions to harness this creative potential. Start today and get ready to be amazed at what your team will do!

© 2012 Mark Miller, co-author of Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life



5 Lessons for Leaders

Today’s guest post is from Mark Miller, co-author with Ken Blanchard of Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life.  Mark is vice president, training and development, for Chick-fil-A. During his career he has served in corporate communications, restaurant operations, quality and customer satisfaction, and numerous other leadership positions. For more information on the book please visit Great Leaders Grow.

Some of you are Tim Tebow fans and some of you are not – got it. Regardless of your feelings, let’s not miss the chance to learn something here about leadership. Here are a few things I’ve observed watching Tebow this season that may help you on your leadership journey.

Leadership matters.  Team sports require leadership. In the NFL, there is an expectation that the quarterback will provide that leadership. Business, ministry, government and academia are all team sports. If you are going to win, someone must lead. Tim provided leadership for the Broncos.

Passion matters. The intensity of the team is always a reflection of their leadership. If the leader is not passionate the team won’t be either. Tim gets this. This was a critical ingredient in six fourth quarter or overtime victories this season. How high is your passion for what you lead?

No style points on the scoreboard. Winning is the ultimate measuring stick in the NFL. Pretty or ugly, it doesn’t matter. Tim knew the goal was winning – not his QB rating. What does a win look like for your team? Is everyone on the same page?

Leadership is a platform for influence. When you and I lead well, our influence will grow. What we do with that influence matters. One of the things Tim does is host disabled young people to attend both home and away games. He says that it inspires him to see their courage and helps him keep the game in perspective. How will you steward your influence?

Skills still matter. Tim has a lot to learn as an NFL quarterback. His skills are not where they need to be. Heart, passion and drive are huge – but insufficient over the long haul without the skills. Tim knows that. That’s why he’s so excited about the off-season. He plans to grow before next year. What’s your plan to grow this year?

Tim Tebow is not perfect – as a football player or as a human being. However, I know he can teach me a lot about leadership. I look forward to learning from him for years to come.