Let your team manage up more than you manage down
Start a "Better than I do" List. Leaders need to be reminded often that they aren’t the only ones who are good at what they do. Keep a running list of people who do what you do better than you do. Whenever you find yourself reading too many of your own press clippings, spend some time reviewing this list to regain perspective. This has the added benefit of giving you a contact list where you can find people to learn from.
Reward Those Who Push Back - Healthy organizations incentivize moderate levels of dissent.
When I walked into the green room and encountered the Hillsong United band after their first set, I was nearly knocked off my feet. The band members were huddled together around a tiny television with a closed-loop feed of the first speakers. Then they watched the second presentation. Then, the third. Many of them had Moleskine pads, and were furiously scribbling notes. No one was talking. No one was checking text messages.
One of the great memories I have of a Catalyst Conference is a panel discussion with Andy Stanley, John Maxwell, and Erwin McManus during the first ever conference in 2000. Erwin said something profound, and John immediately looked down at Linda, his longtime assistant in the front row, and made a motion as if he was writing, indicating he wanted his Moleskine notebook to capture what Erwin had just said. In front of two thousand young leaders, John demonstrated his desire to learn. Andy Stanley made a great comment later on, and satirically asked John, “Are you going to take notes on my answers as well?”
But as I learned while working at Catalyst, creativity is not completely inborn. It’s not just the musician sitting on the rooftop, dreaming up new lyrics about the color of the sky at noontime. It is the man in the third third of his life, taking a college course to learn more about his field. It is the CEO who schedules a lunch with a local graphic designer to talk about trends in logo design. It is the team of accountants who train themselves to use a revolutionary computer program before anyone else in their market does. The key to innovation is intentionality.
You are the chief, but not the only, vision caster. When you hire new team members, don’t hire only staff executers. Stack your roster with some dreamers too. They’ll take the vision you’re placing in front of them and will run with it. Make sure to ask questions designed to reveal how much time they spend dreaming each day.
MURDER, WHEN APPROPRIATE. This habit must be handled with care. Don’t complete a project for completion’s sake. You’ll often realize that an idea should be killed while you’re still attempting to execute. When this becomes clear, murder it and move on. However, if you find dead bodies lying all over the floor, you should evaluate your creative process to determine why so many of the ideas your team is generating are unsustainable.
Disclosure: Thomas Nelson provided me a copy of this book for review purposes.