Creativity, leading and active waiting

Waiting is hard.

Waiting is especially hard for leader types.

The process of creativity and innovation requires waiting. You can’t force the creative process. Of course, a creative person also pays the price of discipline. You’ll never be creative if you don’t make regular space for the process. Yet, creativity is indeed like the ocean, we are like the surfers.

Leaders, who seek to develop innovative and creative teams, will occasionally need to lead their teams into active waiting. This is the moment where ambiguity is thick and solutions are thin. Here are some ways to invite a team into the active waiting process:

  • Help the team understand the seasons of creativity. Have a conversation about ambiguity and why sometimes it’s part of the process of creativity. This can help the team relax through the difficult time.
  • Invite the team to pay attention to the clues that could lead to the creative spark. Creativity usually pops out like an “aha” moment. Though we can’t force those moments, we can be watching for them. If we have an attitude of expectation as a team that the innovative solution is coming and that we are giving our best attention and thinking to it, it’s more likely we’ll see it when it emerges.
  • Point back to a time in the team’s history when active waiting made a difference. Examples of the past, can give a team the courage to wait through a current season of ambiguity.
  • Keep the issue in front of the team without unhealthy pressure to solve it. Talk about it, consider options, but do it in a way that keeps the team engaged in the process rather than fearful that they will be in trouble if they don’t hurry up and solve the issue.

What other things have you done to help a team with active waiting?

Creativity, leading and active waiting2024-04-02T19:37:12-04:00

Developing the complacent

I ran across a Gallup pole that really struck me. Here it is:

The Gallup pole results
GMJ surveyed U.S. employees to discover what effect employee engagement may have on team-level innovation and customer service delivery. Gallup researchers studied employee responses to several items about innovation in the workplace to see which factors differed most strongly among engaged employees (29% of respondents) and those who were not engaged (56%) or actively disengaged (15%).


The middle, and largest, number is the one I want you think about for a moment. Forget about innovation for just a minute and consider the power of 56% of employees who may not be fully engaged in your organization. The number may be higher or lower, but the concept is powerful. There is a group of people in your organization--good people who are talented and yes...complacent. They need to be inspired and challenged to rise to a new level of excellence. They are longing to be led with authenticity and given a picture of a preferable future. They are longing to be invited into something big that really matters.

Imagine their collective potential. 

Developing the complacent2024-04-02T19:37:12-04:00

Reflection and Leading

Leaders, either through temperament or busy-ness, do not always see the value of reflection. Yet, without reflection, a leader is at the mercy of his or her reactivity and will find it hard to grow. If reflection is new to you as a leader, here is are a couple of practices you might find useful:

    1) Reflection through Replay:

       Use your memory and imagination to replay a recent situation where you found your leading lacking. As you replay the situation, pay attention to how you responded in the situation. Try and remember your body posture and the words you used--the messages you conveyed. Reflect on your attitudes and actions and consider what you could do to change your interaction the next time you find yourself in a similar situation. IN FACT, this is a quite powerful concept. Let's call it Reflecting Forward.

    Take a situation or meeting that is yet to happen and imagine yourself in that meeting responding with the positive leadership qualities you desire to give to those in the meeting. Imagine responding with wisdom and compassion. Imagine yourself honoring those in the meeting and giving them space to share their ideas. Impinge a better meeting or situation and it is more likely to occur.

Reflection and Leading2024-04-02T19:37:12-04:00

Employee Service

We all know the value of customer service. But, as a customer, have you ever thought about employee service? Yep, employee service. Here's what I mean.

Earlier today I was on the phone with a receptionist trying to make a location change for a scheduled appointment. I had to dial back to her three times. During the third conversation, I could hear in the background that her other phone lines were ringing off the hook. I sensed a tinge of frustration in her voice. So, in order to receive better customer service, I turned up the volume on my employee service.

Dave: Sally, thank you so much for your help

Sally: Sure, no problem (her voice tone becoming more positive)

Sally: Can I get your phone number

Dave: Sure (giving the number). Again, Sally I really appreciate your help

Sally: Hey no biggie at all (her tone now completely positive). You have a good afternoon.

Dave: You too Sally.

Of course, employee service is nothing more than being polite and engaging. But, there are two good reasons to practice employee service.

1) The person helping you is a human being

2) You'll get better customer service (Imagine that, I can play a role in better customer service for myself. It doesn't have to all be up to the service rep. Hmmmm....).

Employee Service2024-04-02T19:37:12-04:00

Task master or adventure guide

Are you a task master or adventure guide?

One of the movements we have to make, in order to become an adventure guide, is a shift from the notion of "leader as inspector" (of work) to "leader as inspirer" (of the worker).

It's not that inspecting work is all bad. We all need to be accountable for our work, and grow in our ability to do it better. Some inspecting is, therefore, understandable. But, some leaders use inspection as the dominant relational exchange they have with their employees. That won't do.

When people are inspired, it creates an energy (in those employees) to do better work. If inspection (and flaw picking) is the only thing people get, it deflates them. Inspiration is like the rays of the sun; it provides energy that allows life to thrive.

How do you inspire people who work for you, OR, what have inspiring leaders done for you that created energy and passion for your work?

Task master or adventure guide2024-04-02T19:37:12-04:00

Anchoring in customer needs

I'm stuck on the idea of anchoring right now, so here's a bit more.

The premise here is that the best visions and services/products are those that are anchored in the needs of the customers. If nobody wants your vision, it may be, as Ram Charan, puts it--a hallucination. Now, there is an exception to this rule in my mind. But, that will be for a different post.

Anchoring in the needs of people requires certain skills leaders need to develop:

    1) Attentiveness: Sometimes customers say things without saying a word. Observing them is critical.

    2) Listening: Over zealous leaders talk to much. The needs of customers get lost in the blathering of the leader.

    3) Questioning: Authentic questions to your team, organization or customer gives you something to listen to. Great leaders listen at least as much as they talk. Why? Because the listening and the asking anchors their words in meaning.

    4) Articulating: Have you ever had someone put into words exactly what you are feeling? It becomes one of those, "Yes, you get it moments." Leaders, who through numbers 1-3, articulate a vision anchored in the hearts and minds of people gain the energy of those people.

more to come...

Anchoring in customer needs2024-04-02T19:37:12-04:00


I received a really original email this morning. Here is is:

Dear Partner,

Greetings of the day to you, although you may be skeptical receiving this
email as we have not met before, I am Mr.Joe Smith and I
work with Post Bank,in Nederlands I have a business proposition involving
the sum of  money  $28,500,000.00 USD in my Bank
which I know it will be of mutual benefit to us, and I believe we can
handle it together, once we have a common understanding
and mutual cooperation in the execution of the modalities.

Respond Via this Email:

Your earliest response to this mail will be highly appreciate.

Best Regards,

Mr. Joe Smith
Phone  +31638860941
Fax: +31847301026
contact us for the best business


    What "Joe" doesn't understand is that, "know it's really different this time" marketing doesn't work. No-it-really-doesn't.

It was a nice touch to bond with me emotionally by acknowledging my skepticism. But, when the product or service is the same lousy farce as always, "really really really really meaning it this time," won't do. This is an extreme example of a really really really (OK, I won't do that again...really) flawed marketing strategy.

Here's the deal:

The best marketing is anchored in customer needs/wants and your ability to deliver over a sustained period of time. If you can't do that, you can dress up your message in any way you'd like, but it will be easily exposed by customers for what it is: a farce.

Work on two things:

1) Anchor your product or service (and the message about it) in the customer's reality

2) Anchor your product in sustainability (unless it's time to change it)

If you build your marketing message around those two qualities, your customers will follow because they will believe you and they will know you will be around tomorrow. Really! (I had to).


Don’t undersell your service or product

This past week, I stayed at a an amazing resort in Park City, Utah. Each unit could have easily been a comfortable place to live. There was a full kitchen, a great bed (you know how important that one is if you travel a lot) and top shelf appliances and amenities. Did I mention the view from my window?

On the resort website, under amenities, there were only a few items listed. One of the amenities listed was "hair dryer." Hair dryer? Are you kidding me? That made it on the short list of "reasons to choose this resort?" For Pete's sake Motel 6 has a hair dryer in each room. Talk about an underselling of a product. That was it.

Part of differentiating yourself in the market is exposing what is remarkable about you to the world. It's not about exaggerating "what is," but developing a remarkable product or service; then, let your light shine.

By the way, the hair dryer didn't work.

Don’t undersell your service or product2024-04-02T19:37:12-04:00

Brand clarity (um…i guess not) :-)

A friend of mine sent me some of his ideas as it relates to what my logo (see above) represents. Any other possibilities?

fireball this way
eye of the Egyptian bird god
comma beats delta
fertilizing the triangular egg
whirlpool pointer
click to play water movie
flush change


Brand clarity (um…i guess not) :-)2024-04-02T19:37:12-04:00

Making space for the people you lead

Great leaders know how to maneuver in, what I all, the teamspace. Understanding the right proximity to a team member (as his or her leader) requires the leader to read the situation, the person and the other dynamics at play in the present moment. Sometimes leaders need to move closer to an employee and provide development and wisdom. At other times, you need to give an employee space. are some ideas about making space for employees

How do you know it's time to make space for an employee:

  • When you're always rescuing him/her and thereby thwarting growth
  • When you've clearly defined a project and you're tempted to swoop in early and see "how it's going" (which is code for, "take over")
  • When you've given a leadership role to an employee and you need to let him/her find his/her own leadership voice

Here a few ways to create space:

  •     Bite your tongue
  •     Take a walk
  •     Smile

    Seek feedback to see how things are going and ask if the employee needs help. If he/she says "no" refer back to 1-3.

Seriously, one of the hardest things for a leader is to create space and then let others flourish in that space. But, if leaders don't, employees will never develop or thrive. Now, I know that there are times where the employee is crashing and burning, and you have to step back in. This should, however, not be your modus operandi. Further, when you do have to step in, the most important thing is not saving the project (even though that's important), it's coaching the employee to greater effectiveness.


Consider this...

Most of our greatest learnings come from failure. So, the way you handle failure in the teamspace has a lot to do with the success of the future.

Sometimes we need to move closer and other times we need to detach a bit. Each person and each situation will require you to "read" what is needed. Once you know what's needed, Do it!

Making space for the people you lead2024-04-02T19:37:12-04:00