Think "Outrageous": How to lead your company beyond creativity-killing constrictions
Small Biz Magazine
If you're like most business owners or executives, you impose long lists of rules and regulations, protocols and decorum on your employees as your company grows and matures.
The controls are necessary, you insist, to maintain order amount the ranks.
But did you ever stop to think that maybe those rules sap the creativity right out of your employees-creativity that potentially could propel your company to innovative greatness? Maybe it's time for a new approach.
"It's time to get outrageous."
So says Brenda Smith, a personal effectiveness coach with her own consulting firm, peoplesmith. Smith has launched a mission to free companies from progressive conformity and to get them thinking creatively again, from top to bottom.
"People are obedient,"she says. "And they learn how to suppress their own energy. But if they do what's expected of them, you'll get what you expect, and that's it."
The creativity-and innovation-comes when your employees "go beyond what's normal and customary," Smith says, and do, well, the unexpected.
"People have their own self-imposed limits, but I say, "Can't you just do something outrageous. Like break the rules?" Smith challenges. "Rules are meant for people who don't understand the rules."
Smith says rules and conformity worked well in the days of downsizing and reorganization, when productivity and efficiency ruled the day. But in this age of information, employees need to be able to convert information to knowledge and, ultimately, to wisdom. And the only way to accomplish that, she stresses, is through creative energy-energy that comes with being outrageous.
"It's really the contrast between the old economy, where we're told to toe the line and do as we're told, and the new economy, where the people are the greatest asset," Smith says.
Becoming outrageous-and encouraging it in your employees-is easier said than done, of course, because it all comes down to one fundamental factor: your ability to change. Smith says it's a process that takes time, commitment and a lot of effort, so don't expect overnight results.
But what you'll begin to build is a living, breathing, dynamic organization full of motivated and loyal people, each of whom wants to make a significant contribution to the business.
Here's where to begin, according to Smith:
- Break the status quo. To change is to do something different, she says. "The leader has to create urgency and leave his comfort zone. I call it "getting off the fence and walking naked into uncertainty." Otherwise, you will die a slow death where you are."
- Put your people first. Says Smith: "Life is about relationships. Business is about relationships. In a knowledge-based society, we have to engage people and relate to them in order to share in that knowledge."
- Raise the bar. People will live up to your highest expectations or fulfill your own fears, depending on how you motivate them, Smith says. The greatest motivation is to help your people grow. Says Smith: "Be tough on the task, but soft on the people."
- Stop arguing for your weaknesses and start to look at reasons why you can do something. And instill in your employees that same philosophy. "Remember when you were a child and (your perspective) was uncensored?" Smith asks. "Try to see the possibilities, not the obstacles."
- Teach your employees not to always ask permission to make things better. Rather, find what's important, make sure they understand your goals and encourage them to move toward those goals. And forget the rules.