Right brain thinkers bring new ideas to team

April 20, 2014

Q I’ve always hired the best and brightest with the top expertise and track record. As a result, my high-performing team keeps producing successful but predictable solutions. What else should I be looking for in new hires to add innovation?

A: Innovators are also often well-trained experts in their field who are also curious nonconformists, open to new experiences.

Look for non-linear thinkers who thrive on complex puzzles.  They apply knowledge creatively and push the limits on conventional thinking by challenging underlying assumptions and the status quo. Their strong right brain function strives for unique solutions.

Innovators are often proactive, enthusiastic early adopters. They love novelty and are gifted at brainstorming, generating ideas and envisioning the possibilities at the front end of a project.  They are often better at spotting problems and opportunities rather than solving them. The more linear thinkers will be better at executing the plan.

Innovators are adaptive, resilient and have an entrepreneurial mindset. They value persistence, collaboration and creative discussion to test the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of their ideas.

Those who are flexible enough to include and incorporate others’ ideas are best for a team. They are committed to generating the best solution rather than their solution.

While innovators produce ingenious solutions, working with them requires additional time for the creative process before achieving deliverables. Innovation requires creativity, the ability to access the usefulness, and then implementing the idea for a successful solution.

This new team dynamic can be disorienting and uncomfortable for the existing members.  During this transition, facilitate the culture shift by supporting members to leverage their own unique strengths, include and optimize their different capabilities, and work cohesively to reach a common purpose.

These characteristics will round out your team.

Originally published in The Province April 13, 2014.

Play nice with vicious co-worker

November 20, 2012

Q: I’m so furious at my colleague who threw me under the bus in front of my entire team. We have to present together to our client next week. How can I work with him when all I want to do is drive over him?

A: Sacrificing a colleague is a cheap temporary solution when the bus is heading directly for him. A convenient scapegoat deflects attention from their mistakes. Running scared creates reactive, short sighted and hurtful actions.

Retaliating may feel better in the short term, but a pedestrian rarely wins when he goes head to head with a bus. It just creates more carnage.

Instead, retreat and nurse your ego until your emotions are no longer clouding your judgment. Replay the situation and identify what you can take responsibility for in the situation.

There is always something. What did you do or not do that allowed you to be cast in a bad light? Find some truth – even if it is only two per cent – in the person’s accusation. As painful as this may be, the self reflection can be a catalyst for huge learning.

Now you have found a starting point to clear the air between you. Take the leader role and book a meeting with your colleague. Open with stepping up and owning your part in the unintended impact. Share what you learned from the situation and what steps you will take to avoid a recurrence. Request his assistance and support.  This can create an opening for your colleague to take responsibility for their actions.  Discuss how you could both work together next time in a way that respects both of your needs.

The bystanders are still watching to see if the runaway bus could take them out, too. Your responsiveness can reinstate the team’s trust and confidence in you and your leadership.

Originally published in The Province, Nov. 18, 2012.

Team resists new vision

January 19, 2011

Q: After being in the role of CEO for six months, my executive team continues to resist my vision. I recognize a change in leadership requires an adjustment period. But they agreed to the new direction, so I feel angry and betrayed by them. How do I get them to do what I need to move my initiatives forward?

A: The answer probably lies in your question. You clearly own the vision. Your team must, too. Your commanding style of leadership may be alienating them. They could be resisting you, not your vision.

Try a collaborative approach. Shift your attitude from me and mine to us and we, making room for them to share with you. Begin by being genuinely curious about their perspectives, opinions and recommendations. Switch from telling them what you want to asking them what they suggest.

Encourage and incorporate their input wherever possible. If you continually resist their ideas, they will feel disempowered, quickly disengage and will probably start resisting you, too.

Your team needs to feel included, trusted and supported. Give them recognition and credit, point out what they are doing well. They will likely respond more favourably once you value their unique abilities and contribution.

See things from their vantage point. Demonstrate empathy for their role of integrating a new strategy with staff’s current reality.

Perhaps you moved to action before establishing solid alignment on the vision, goals and methods. Clarify the vision, set outcomes, and targets then give them the latitude to run with it.

Solicit their feedback on your leadership. Make the necessary changes in you so they willingly move forward with you at the helm. It is easier to adapt your style than your entire teams’.

Originally published in The Province, January 16, 2011.

New exec tip: take it slow

November 29, 2010

Q: I am the first woman in my organization to be promoted to the executive team. I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform. How can I create a powerful presence so that my perspectives and leadership style will be accepted?

A: First there’s no need to prove yourself. A 19-year study showed that 25 of the top Fortune 500 firms that promoted women into the executive suite were 20-80 per cent more profitable than the medium firms in their industries.

New members provide the team with a valuable point of view that can provide more sound decision-making for a homogeneous team. As part of this team, you are responsible to bring your unique perspective to the table so that it’s heard and considered even though it may not be accepted and adopted.

One of the biggest challenges for any new executive is to step into your new identity so it matches your new role-including viewing corporate issues strategically now instead of tactically. Believing you belong on the team is key since your attitude impacts how you are perceived. If you feel you are fighting to represent an unpopular viewpoint you may come across as defensive. How can you lead so others will follow?

Before rushing to establish your executive presence on the team, assess and manage the relationships. What are the member’s unique drivers, strengths and styles and how are they leveraged on the team? How do members come to agreement on issues? How do they raise and resolve difficult issues?

Collaborate in areas you are already aligned demonstrating your strengths and forging alliances. Credibility and trust take time to develop. Like you, the team needs time to adapt. Enjoy the challenge — you’ve earned it.

Originally published in The Province, November 28, 2010.