If you're looking for techniques to improve your performance as a leader or you are looking for leadership best practices, I'm sure you have read plenty about the role of leaders in change management or how to promote innovation. By now you should have realized (or will do so soon enough) that there is no standard recipe that you can apply to all scenarios, shake a magic wand, and voilà...everyone in your team is now an innovation machine. Of course not. However, there are a few things that you should keep in mind when trying to promote creativity and innovation in a business environment. This is not another proven formula for leadership, these are just a few questions that will help you analyze your situation better so you can devise a plan, test it, and above all, learn from it!
First things first...why do you need to change anything? Not that you don't need it, if you're reading this, you probably feel you need some sort of change. It is important however, to understand the real reasons behind this feeling. Too often I've heard sentences like "what's the whole point, we're doing great, look at the last 2 quarterlies!". If you are in a leading position, you know better what the real organization performance is and how you're doing compared to your competition. Even if you're doing well today, you probably understand urge of finding new ways of doing business - the industry is changing, new laws, new competitors, a revolutionary invention, etc. Once you have grasped this, it will help you communicate it well - and I mean really well as in a 2 minute jaw opener explanation - which will help you establish a sense of urgency so that your team truly understands where the organization is going. As we say in Chile, let all row in the same direction.
In a global environment, it is highly unlikely that what works in the China office will work as well in Brazil or France. Large character variations can be found even in small organizations. You'll find that while some are very proactive, others can be quite reluctant to changing the status quo. Try to identify who are your potential allies and how to work with those less open to new initiatives. Get to know your people. Find out what works and what doesn't. Perhaps a good strategy is to test reactions with small changes here and there. With this piece of intelligence, you'll know where to find the right ears for your ideas so the vision can trickle down to as many team members as possible.
Now that you know your team better, are they really capable of developing the changes you need? Check their skills, but don't stick to their CVs, people are dynamic and often don't communicate their skills well in paper. Study their latest results and deliverables, you'll find valuable insights there that are impossible to communicate in a CV. This guy's really good with details, this one has an amazing capacity for synthesizing, that one's great with C-level officers, etc. Now you can start mapping out how each member fits in the vision and specially if you need a new character or trainings to fill in the gaps or to acquire new skill sets.
Make (and publish, communicate, or whatever you want to call it) a roadmap, establish concrete goals and metrics. This will help you correlate your strategy to the actual effects on performance. It doesn't matter that much if you can't reach all the goals, but be ambitious. If you want to develop a more innovative culture and make "some changes", you need to break the complacency cycle, so don't be shy with your goals. At the same time, don't punish yourself (or your team, for that matter) if you don't meet all the goals. Remember, if you want to change your organization, you will need to change yourself. Simply analyse the reasons, make a new plan, and try again.
CCO & Co-founder
Blue Power Projects