In the 21st century workplace, a leader needs to use all their skills to engage their team. It is also clear that the world of work today is changing rapidly. Whether you are in a leadership role or if you’re aspiring to be in one soon, there are a myriad of skills that you need to acquire and put into practice to have an efficient, happy and creative team. One such important skill that is innovation.
Perhaps you’re faced with a situation where you don’t have enough capital to pull all kinds of different people, with different backgrounds, attributes and mindsets together to work as a team. An effective leader is constantly striving to add unique value to the team they lead, ensuring that it is worth much more than just the sum of its parts. They promote high engagement amongst team members and themselves. They demonstrate a high level of empathy and a deeper understanding of the people that they’re responsible for on a more human level, rather than just via KPIs and target metrics.
If you’re looking to leap forward into becoming a leader of innovation, then read our 7 techniques that you can adopt to become a leader of innovation. The best part is – you can start right now.
Nip assumption in the bud
There are so many ways that a particular piece of work can be accomplished. Yet, the brain, when left to its own devices, routinely takes shortcuts to complete the work, to save time and energy. This is the assumption in question when you have team members that use phrases like “it’s always been done that way”. They are justifying a dated technique that more often than not, prevents them from imagining alternatives that may potentially save effort, time or money.
This is especially important in the modern workplace, where techniques and tools advance at breakneck speeds. If you don’t innovate your processes, someone else will (and reap the benefits!). Keep your team open to new ideas and fresh processes by asking questions like “Does anyone have another way of handling this situation?” – keeps your team members involved and motivated. It creates an opportunity to recognize their input and ideas.
Always walk the ground.
As with everything else in work and life, communication is always key.
In large companies, especially, the disconnect between leadership and the employees on the field is often very significant. There is little in the way of efficient channels in the communications vehicle moving up the ranks, as compared to the all too common mass BCC’ed emails moving down.
An innovative leader strives to understand the entirety of the business and its operations on a much deeper level than just their job position. Learn how every employee is important to the entire operation, and develop empathy for your team, and by extension – your customers. Listen to their pain points, and promote sharing of their first-hand experiences with the customers or clients that they face every day. With all this first-hand information, you are now able to find out how your organization or company can more effectively tackle the problems that your employees – and most importantly, your customer faces to create a much better customer and employee experience.
Thinking ahead of the curve
Unless you have a crystal ball and a feathered turban, telling the future isn’t exactly something us normal humans can do. But with enough experience, the skill of foresight can be honed effectively. Thinking ahead of the curve is important, especially in today’s hyper-charged changing world. If we don’t pay attention, we might miss an opportunity. Opportunities are what sets successful teams and companies apart from the ones who fall behind.
But how do you train your team to think ahead of the curve?
You have to hone the ability to follow trends and understand them quickly. We live in the age of information – and we have access to a world of information via the internet, books, reports and articles. When you can, create time to read up on resources and expand your knowledge and expertise. Use social media to your advantage – twitter is the best way to detect emerging trends in your industry, as movers and shakers often create buzz around particularly exciting concepts by tweeting about them first. Learn to connect the dots and project where the trends will go in the future – this might take a little bit of practice. Then, share the information with your team, so that you may further refine these concepts for your business. You may even be able to come up with some groundbreaking techniques of your own that can help establish yourself even more as a leader.
Keep the idea factory in motion.
Creative people don’t just sit on their ideas – they act upon them. Whether it is as simple as writing them down on the ubiquitous napkin or post-it, or even as complex as a fully-fleshed out sit-down (or Zoom) presentation with your entire team. Ideas are fleeting things – unless it is a really “Eureka” moment, the brain can’t possibly manage to store all of the ideas you have in your head constantly, alongside other important day-to-day thoughts like remembering to pick up the laundry after work, or getting groceries in for the week.
Try and create a mental environment where you’re able to consciously recognize all of the ideas that come into your brain. Inspiration can strike at any time. Write down those ideas, place them into an “idea box” or an “idea board” in your office or use technology. Turn your real and virtual workspace into a creative space where ideas can fully flourish into actionable strategies. Use simple, yet disciplined tools like mind maps and brainstorming, to fully realise the full potential of your ideas. Once you’ve found a strategy that works, promote these strategies to your team members and let them tweak them. This will lead to a more creative and efficient team in the long-term.
Build the buy-in
Selling a product or service to your customer is all about communication. This is called a product pivot.
If you’ve ever watched the TV show Shark Tank or Dragons Den, you’d probably understand the merits of pitching, or “building the buy-in”. If you have a team that is mostly client-facing, regularly review their strategies and promote out-of-the-box thinking if it comes down to it. Work together with your team to promote strategic thinking in how to deal with different kinds of clients, and then show how these strategies can enhance the brand in the future through word-of-mouth or a good reviews from their clients.
Look for feedback from your mentors and others you trust to sharpen you and your team’s closing skills. Lastly, be patient – building the buy-in is a long process, but is ultimately the most rewarding in the long run.
Embrace every opportunity
As a leader, turn your focus towards any possibility of opportunity you can find. With a keen sense of imagination and heightened alertness, you stand to see the big picture where others stress over the small details. Of course, work can be stressful at times. If you keep your mood right and press on with the “opportunity” mindset, you get to exercise and flex your imaginative muscles and turn your perspective towards better strategies that can solve problems that are faced by you and your team on a day-to-day basis.
When facing any challenges collectively, get your team members to ask among themselves and come up with 5 alternative ways to address the challenge. This promotes creative thinking and to seek opportunity in every challenge, no matter how impossible it may seem at first, building mental resilience and helping your team gain insight and critical experience that can’t be easily found elsewhere.
Use technology to your advantage.
There is software available to help in solving and automating just about any kind of mundane task that a workplace has to do on a day-to-day basis. Scheduling, ordering, communication and team management apps are easily found via a quick google search, and there are plenty to choose from – the only hard part is reading through the reviews and choosing which one to use. Perhaps check out some suggestions from our sister business – The Coach Zone.
By harnessing the power of technology, you cut down on expensive person-hours that your team members have to spend doing such tasks. This frees up their time to engage in more creative and innovative strategies through group brainstorming to help propel the team, and by extension, the company forward into a successful future for everybody involved.
Final thoughts about being a leader
Becoming an innovative team leader takes courage, participation and a lot of effort on your part. If you’re looking to develop such skills but don’t know where to start, contact us for a brief chat about how you can advance in your leadership role with executive coaching – helping you create and maintain a more efficient, happy and innovative team in your workplace.