Monthly Archives: March 2014

What Creativity is Not

27 Mar
by Bridget DiCello

Creativity is not having unique and cool ideas that hit you out of the blue on a regular basis.  It doesn’t necessarily have to do with art in its many forms. defines it as “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, and interpretations.

Creativity in the professional business realm is firmly rooted in the ability to connect seemingly unrelated information, thoughts, ideas and strategies.  This requires a few key things:

  1. Expectations must be communicated.  If you ask people to be creative, they can interpret that in many ways.  Provide the framework.  Start with describing the situation – not the specific problem to be solved, but the situation – the destination in general terms, the constraints, the history, and the clear objectives.  To do this, you must make sure you do not solve 90% of the problem in this step.  Leave it open enough to allow for creative thought, while providing a framework with immovable constraints, company values and goals not up for debate.
  2. Describe the Creative Process.  If you ask people for ideas, and then don’t use any, tell them they are wrong or that their idea won’t work, you will stop the creativity from flowing.  “Yes, and…” is a good approach.  Explain that you want to brainstorm 100 ideas in 5 different areas.  Tell them what will happen next and how those ideas will be processed.  Involve others as much as possible in the steps of the process and the implementation.  You can elicit more involvement, especially from those you might think are not creative, by creating a safe and predictable place.
  3. Ask Questions to clarify.  The idea that someone puts forth first is rarely their best idea.  They are testing the waters.  If they are shut down, you will never hear the good idea.  Curiously ask them the How, What, When, Where types of questions to better understand their suggestion.  Most of us cannot clearly communicate what is in our head in 30 seconds or less, especially with a creative or unique idea or concept.
  4. Connect the Dots.  If you enter the creative process without ‘the solution’ in your mind, you have a lot better chance of combining seemingly unrelated ideas.  Group words on paper.  Create different categories.  Find multiple ways that different ideas connect.  Don’t jump too quickly to conclusions.  If you need an immediate solution, then have a meeting with your problem solvers and solve the problem.  If you want to stimulate creativity, give it time to grow and ideas to evolve.

Recognition Too Much Time, Energy and Money – and little ROI?

20 Mar
by Bridget DiCello

People thrive on recognition and praise.  Every leadership book will tell you so.  And many resources will give you a ton of ideas on how to recognize your employees.  And so many of these ideas take either a lot of time or a lot of money.  Make no mistake; your time and your money are both things that your employees appreciate.

However, many of these recognition strategies pale in comparison to a powerful conversation.  People grow and professionally develop both in small steps and in big ones.  Have you ever disciplined yourself to do something that may appear very small, like be on time for meetings?  To others, it may be a “well, it’s about time” moment, but to you, for whatever reason it was tough to make it on time, it is an enormous leap forward.

And I’m sure you’ve also make huge strides as well, like hiring a new key position, landing a large account or launching a new product.

When a member of your team makes a huge stride forward, it deserves recognition, praise and public acknowledgement.  However, we can probably all attest that some personality-challenging step forward like being on time, using a calendar consistently or routinely making sales calls can take a whole lot more energy.  The acknowledgement you give as the leader to these small steps forward does more to change a person to become the best they can be than any big bonus, award or public praise – as important as that is.

How to recognize small steps:

  1. Identify in each employee the potential they have that they are not currently realizing – talk to them about what you see that you know they can do and do better.
  2. Focus on seeing specific movement forward in those areas by those employees.
  3. Have a brief, but specific conversation about those mini-accomplishments when they happen.  “I noticed… great job!”
  4. Also have a brief conversation when you see them slip back into old behaviors, reminding them of your belief that they can make progress and you know they will succeed.
  5. Continue to have the brief, but specific conversations when you see movement forward, realizing it actually takes quite a long time to change a behavior and reform a habit.  People will slip back but as long as it’s two steps forward and only one back, they are still making progress.

Be careful not to be patronizing – don’t use some silly reward system or stars on a chart.  They may be small steps forward, but if they were easy for that employee, you wouldn’t have to be coaching them.

Pinpointing Strengths that Energize You

04 Mar
by Bridget DiCello

Skills are what you are good at doing, but do not necessarily enjoy. Strengths are what energizes you, but you may not be extremely good at them. However, strengths are where you have the greatest opportunity to improve your performance because they energize you.

The question is:  How do you know which is which – for yourself and your team members?

  1. Observe carefully. If you take a moment to observe both yourself and your team as they go about their daily duties, you will see the times when their faces light up, when they begin to work a bit quicker and when they put their nose to the grindstone and stay focused and determined. Those are the times they are working within their areas of strength.
  2. Listen closely. Listen to how your team members speak about certain tasks and roles. Are they animated, thoughtful and asking good questions? When do they talk more than usual? Or when do they think more than usual? These are times where they are probably talking about their strengths.
  3. Start a discussion. After you’ve observed and listened to those with whom you work, ask them what they enjoy doing the most. If you ask them to do a task or assist you in a certain project area, notice how they approach it and then ask them afterwards if they enjoyed what they did. If they respond with, “Sure, no problem,” ask more questions to clarify. “I really appreciate your assistance and need your expertise, but it seems like you’d rather I was able to do it on my own or get someone else to help me?” Then, be ready to do so.

People-pleasers. The challenge with the above activities is that there are different personality types that make pinpointing strengths difficult. There are people who will never say “No!” would never admit they did not want to help and will always step in with a smile. You must observe them much more carefully in order to see what is really energizing to them, and what they do out of need to please others. Rarely is the desire to please others their actual strength.

Grouches. The other challenge is those people who have tried very hard to cover any energy they might have in a veil of grouchiness. In order to protect their ego, their personal space or their fears, they respond almost always with a lack of energy. You may need to watch them carefully for a longer period of time, offer extra recognition and appreciation for what they do for you, and encourage the things they are good at to see if you can uncover some energizing activities.

Strengths are not always the things you are best at, but certainly can be. Pinpointing what you are good at can be a decent place to start if you are struggling to identify strengths.

What about you? What activity are you doing when your energy levels the highest during the day?