Are you on Auto-Follow with your People?

13 04 2010

Photo by Graur Razvan Ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was really excited when I jumped onto twitter to find my followers had jumped by a dozen over night. I thought to myself “wow….people are starting to get me!”. Then another 5 or so followers, then 10, then 20, 30, and 40 in a day. I’ve seen my followers triple in the last 24 hours.

Something must be working!

80! Eighty new followers in a matter of hours. What had I done to elicit such a massive response? Had I tweeted that most profound of 140 characters, blowing so many people away that made them stop and think “hey, I should be watching this guy”

Ok, know I sound a little conceited, but I’m sure anyone with a twitter account has found in the early days that buzz when someone follows. It’s cool to get a follower, even cooler to get a follower you don’t know. It must mean your message is getting out there. As a leader, do you get that buzz when you assume something YOU have done has generated some excitement across your team, only to realise when you take the time to look at the “Why” of the response, it was because of unrelated activity?

What did I do?

So whilst reviewing my blogs, my tweets, my Facebook trying to discover that little jem that I need to capitalise on, I discovered something else.

Auto-follow…..

Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are some very busy people out there who want to be informed, connected to/with, amused, etc.  I follow people I think have something worthwhile to tweet. Could be information about business, health, friends, or interesting/quirky comments. I won’t just follow because you follow me. I don’t want to be followed because I follow you.

Are you on Auto Follow with your People?

This gets me thinking about how often we are on “Auto-follow” with our people. Are you caught up in the day-to-day of your business, do you ‘auto-follow’ requests from your people?

It’s easy to give a quick yes or no to your team’s requests without making time to think through the impact or the benefits of their needs. It’s easier to say yes rather than deal with conflict, or no rather than taking time to trust your people’s ideas have merit –  both approaches potentially lead to greater conflict because you did not think through the issue or idea in the first place, because you reacted on auto-follow.

As a manager, it’s your role to provide the resources for your people to do their job. It doesn’t mean you need to be the expert in all things. Thinking about a leadership role I was recently offered, I was reluctant to put myself forward for fear that I don’t have the knowledge required to lead this particular group. I realised that my role is to help bring out the best in the team, to use the skills, knowledge and experience of a great team, rather than trying to solve all the problems myself.

Will you Auto-Follow, Lead your team today?

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Me? An Innovation Expert? Who’d have thought!

9 04 2010

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. Andy Warhol

It can be fascinating to look back at where you have come from. To sit and reflect upon what you are doing now, and the experiences that have brought you to where you are. Whilst we are busy focussing on the trivial, and sometimes not so trivial matters of the day to day, we tend to lose sight on how where we are going is because of where we have been.

A little profound in the thinking, perhaps, but it is 2 o’clock in the morning. I’m sitting outside, in the cold, with a beanie and a big jumper typing away because of where my thoughts have been over the last couple of weeks.

I was recently introduced by as “an innovation expert”. I’ve been recently suggested as a guy to speak to about innovation. I wonder is this because of where I am, or because of where I have been?

I completed a Graduate Diploma in “Innovation and Service Management”, and throughout the program I often wondered “where is the innovation?” It was there all along. One of the strengths I found throughout this study of “Innovation” was that it comes from doing things differently. From looking at business as a system, and not as a group of individuals. I can look back also at my career and see the moments when I was more interested in doing something differently, rather than doing the same old ‘tried and tested’ things – and at times I was less concerned about what others thought of my approach, as I could clearly ‘see’ what needed to be done (and thankfully those who disagreed were begrudgingly happy with the outcomes).

When I was asked to brief a group of soon-to-be business owners on my business ‘vision’, I started with “Involve, Inspire, Innovate”. I thought it was a pretty catchy tag line, as did the group. Nice bit of validation. And so thus began a journey perhaps not what I intended, but where I seem to be heading at this point in time. When attending a networking event, when asked ‘What does People Motion Do?” I happily sprout that “I collaborate with business owners to inspire their people to become involved in innovation in their workplace”, rather than “I’m a HR consultant”.

I posted recently about the need for development in the area of innovation (Do Your People Trust You To Innovate), and whilst continuing to read and comment on the fantastic responses, I posed a question of my own “So how do we, as leaders in innovation, build a culture that not only encourages creativity, outside the box thinking, and gain buy-in from the front line? Is trust enough?”

I was rewarded with a response by Robin Cook, a seasoned change agent with an extensive background in organizational development/innovation, change management/culture change, strategic planning, and training. To me, he’s an Innovation Expert. But back to his response. Robin pointed me to his research on innovative organisations. I can speak from my own experience  to say that the characteristics he discovered are truly what makes for a supportive culture of innovation.

Excerpt: Lessons Learned From Innovative Organizations: 9 Shared Characteristics

Robin Cook Innovation University Fellow

9 common cultural characteristics shared by some of the most innovative organizations in the world, as identified through site visits during the 1998-1999 Innovation University Fellowship Program.

Perhaps the most striking lesson we learned was just how much these disparate organizations had in common. Virtually every one of the organizations we visited displayed nine shared characteristics:

• Strong, clearly expressed SHARED VALUES

• An appreciation of/for the WHOLE INDIVIDUAL and everything s/he can bring to the organization

• Cultures that encourage OPENNESS and PLAYFULNESS

CELEBRATE SUCCESSES constantly

• A strong, clearly communicated sense of HISTORY

• Intense CUSTOMER FOCUS

• Clear focus on TRENDS, even those that do not seem to directly effect current businesses

CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAMS

I’d like to share with you the whole article, and I’ll post a bit more over the next week about the above, but for now I’d encourage you to look differently at your business, with the above characteristics in mind, and think about how different you can be.





Switch Off

7 04 2010

I think in today’s online environment we are bombarded with information. If you do a search on any topic via the web, you’ll get hundreds of references, some relevant, some not so relevant, for your topic of choice.

This morning I came across a blog from Nic Askew which has inspired me to simplify a few things in my life right now (and I encourage you to check it out).

You would know by now I am an advocate of making time for your people and meeting their needs. So this next comment could seem a little contradictory.

Switch Off Your Life……..

I have often been met with resistance from managers when I suggest they allocate an hour each day to switching off. No mobile. No e-Mail. No Teleconference. No Multitasking. No To-Do List. No Interruptions. Just an hour to think about your needs.

Get a nice pen,  a journal with good quality paper, and write out what ever comes up for you in the moment.

It is in these moments of allowing yourself to switch off from all the distractions, to just be in the moment, when you stop trying to think about how to innovate, that you are some times at your most innovative.

I challenge you to take an hour out of your day for yourself, and just be.

Let me know what comes up for you!





How-to Not Inspire Trust

5 04 2010

TRUST: A firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something :

relations have to be built on trust”

“they have been able to win the trust of the others”.

That’s the dictionary explanation for Trust.

Confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, credence. All words that engender Trust.

photo by Chris Sharp / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So what about HOW to gain someone’s trust? If you’re like me you will take most people at their word, you’ll trust them, until you have some experience to contradict that trust. You’ll also know how difficult it can be to trust someone again if they have misled you, been dishonest, or in the case of leadership – they don’t do what they said they would.

There is great insight from Todd Smith (Facebook) of Little Things Matter about how the little things we say and do impact the relationships we have (see Todd’s FB page or website for some ‘little’ insights into these things).  So after writing about the need for Trust in order to foster innovation, it got me thinking of  how a leader can undermine the trust they have from their people.

Don’t do what you said you would do – When you commit to something for one of your people and you don’t deliver, you are saying that they are not important. Something as simple as not sending promised information via e-mail can erode a little bit of that trust bank. In most situations, simply recognising you’re at fault (ie you forgot to send the email) can go a long way to keep trust.

You refuse to accept that you are wrong – Admit you stuffed up. This is actually something you can have fun with, and really ease the tension. I can recall a few times in my career when after giving my team instructions, having someone point out that I’m wrong. There is that moment where the rest of the team hold their breath waiting for a quick dressing down of such an insubordinate response to MY instruction. Doesn’t happen. I’m happy that my team feel that I am open enough to accept my own stupidity. To quote (I think) Monty Python “it’s better to be happy than right!” How true! Your team will be happy, and you’ll do things right.

You keep your people out of the loop – I can’t stress how important it is to keep the lines of communication open. The stuff that comes up for your team may seem trivial or unimportant to you at times, however if one of your people is talking to you, chances are it’s important to them. Sometimes they need you to provide direction. Sometimes they need you to confirm they are on the right track. Sometimes they just need to have someone LISTEN to what they are saying. Taking time out to listen to your people will not only provide opportunities to learn more about their needs, it will also allow YOU the opportunity to build their trust in you. If you take the time out of your busy schedule (ie give them your full attention – no checking e-Mail, no answering the phone) when they bring you the small stuff, then when it comes to the bigger issues, they will trust you to listen.

You remind your team when they have made a mistake – Sometimes you just know, because of your own experience, that an idea or suggestion is not going to work. You are happy to quote “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results”. Guess what? If it’s someone else’s idea, and they know they have your support to try something, then just maybe they will look at the ‘same’ thing in a different way (isn’t that innovation?). You learnt all you know from making mistakes (and from being successful), so how can your people learn if they don’t get the chance to make a few mistakes on their own. You should encourage them if they make a mistake – it shows you trust them. Ask them a few questions about what they could have done differently. Resist the urge to tell them what they did wrong (ie show them the benefit of your experience). Let them learn from their own mistakes. Every successful person has failed their way to success. What if Edison or Einstein gave up after the first failure?

I know theses four points seem like really simple things that we all “know” we should do. Being consistent (do what you say you’ll do), Taking responsibility for your actions (admit you could be wrong), being present in the moment (really listening to your people all the time), and letting your people learn from their mistakes, will add interest to your trust bank.

If you do these four things, then you’ll find the next focus group, workshop, or brainstorming session will see your team feeling they can trust you to let them put forward all their idea’s, no matter how outlandish they may seem at the time.

Who will you encourage to fail, and how will you help them succeed (and innovate!!)





Do your people trust you to innovate?

2 04 2010

When I think innovation I usually think about technology advances. For instance, while travelling back from Canberra I’m working on my laptop connected to the web via a mobile phone (no I’m not also driving, I’m the passenger). Now a few years back mobile technology was unreliable in more remote locations and whilst I still have a few drop outs on the journey, I’m pretty impressed that I can work whilst on the road (more time to spend with Little Miss when I get home!).

photo by Simon Howden/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I wonder why some businesses are seen as innovative, and others are not. How do we define innovative – is it only when there is a leap of technological advancement that we cry “innovative!”, or can it be more subtle than that.

If innovation is to improve something, to make something better, to do something different, then what other areas are we able to innovate?

Innovation and Personal Development

Laura Wolfram, of Sandstorm inc, recently posed the question (via LinkedIn) “What is the most important area of personal development you feel is needed in the innovation field? Training on identifying insights? Effective concept writing? Creative thinking techniques? Others?

There are some fascinating responses to this question. From change of mindset, to buy-in, motivation, to creative problem solving, know-thyself, and even listening.

One of the area’s I’m currently researching right now in prep for a seminar on innovation is innovation and employee engagement. I think all the personal development in the world is moot if you cannot develop and inspire TRUST from your people.

Trust and Innovation….and your people.

Let’s face it, if your people do not trust you, they will not be creative, will not put idea’s forward, and will not see any benefit to putting their idea’s in the open if they do not feel that their manager/leaders will support them.

In terms of support, I believe that you need to develop an environment where your people will trust that you will listen to their ideas (regardless of how outside the box the thinking may be). This means sometimes you need to trust, or believe in your people enough to let them make some mistakes, and perhaps you’ll be surprised that you’ll actually get some innovative idea’s.

You can find dozen’s of techniques to encourage ‘creativity’ (eg brainstorming, mind-mapping, six thinking hats etc), but you’ll not get any quality of response if there is no trust. Perhaps for the first brainstorming session you’ll get heaps of ideas, but unfortunately most innovations don’t fail due to lack of credibility, but lack of effective implementation (ie not enough follow through and ongoing focus on the ‘innovation’). The result of this lack of follow through will be that your people wont trust you to deliver on the promised actions agreed upon during the ‘brainstorming’ or action planning sessions.

So to summarise, if you are looking for personal development to become more innovative, look to how trustworthy you are as a leader.





InQ (Innovation Quotient)….is there such a thing?

29 03 2010

WAKE UP!!!!

Yep, its Monday morning and with about 12 hours sleep I am kicking to continue developing my innovation quotient, which is like emotional intelligence, but innovative. So the theme for this week will continue with Innovation with Employee’s, and I am working through some interviews with businesses who see themselves as innovative with their employees. Should be some exciting conversations!

What’s Your InQ? (Innovation Quotient)

What's your Organisations InQ

Is there such a thing as InQ? Can we measure it?

There are IQ (Intelligence) and EQ (Emotional) tests out there to determine where you sit above or below the rest of the class, however is there a test for your business Innovation Quotient – InQ? I found an interesting study from the Gallup Management Journal (Engaged Employees Inspire Company Innovation). For me, the key take out from this article is the link between engaged employees, and how likely they are to feel supported to express creative ideas – even bad ones (if there is such a thing).

I’ve aways been an advocate for the engagement of your people, from the simple issues to the most complex problems.

Engaged employees feel more secure that their idea’s and suggestions will be heard. Think about the last time you put forward an idea that seemed far-fetched. How was the response? Were you laughed at, or were you supported, encouraged?

Even more importantly, when was the last time you had the chance to develop a ‘crazy’ idea to its fruition, and receive kudos for its success?

Now look at it from the point of view of your team – how do YOU respond when they throw an idea out for all to hear?

I’m not sure how you can assess an organisation InQ, or even if you should. Could we stifle innovation by putting a measure on it? Do we measure based on how extreme, unique, different, unlikely to be copied, etc, an “innovation” is?

One of the key factors to innovative success is in its acceptance, and like any change, no matter how great an idea, no matter how well the concept is received, its failure, or it’s success is determined more by the implementation than the innovation.

Are you engaging your employees to support or to stifle Innovation?





How Can You Inspire Without Trust?

25 03 2010

I’ve been wondering about innovation over the last few days, and about inspiration. Where do they come from? Where do you find inspiration, and when does it become innovation? I’m working on a series of items about these topics in preparation for a seminar on innovation and employees.

Photo by Francesco Marino

Yes, my business tag line is “Involve, Inspire, Innovate” so I guess these three area’s are always top of mind for me. I have seen some fantastic improvements in workgroups when managers shed the tie, roll up their sleeves, and sit down as one of the team to work through the things that are bugging their people. I am a firm advocate of collaboration across workgroups, teams and levels, and I’ve written about this previously

So that’s the “Involve”, What about the “Inspire”

The more difficulties one has to encounter, within and without, the more significant and the higher in inspiration his life will be. Horace Bushnell

I find I am inspired by some of the people I associate with. People who have had some challenges in their life, and refused to be a victim. However I still need to get up every day and inspire MYSELF….it’s personal. How do you inspire your people? It can be such a difficult thing to do, as we are all so unique and what inspires one, can bore another.

Is it “Lead by example”? Is it “Walk the Talk”?

One of the worst forms of inspiration I see in business, is when the company “mission/vision” statement  or the ‘company values’ is forced upon the organisation. A great example (or perhaps a poor example) was when an organisation I worked for spent ridiculous amounts of money printing little cards sprouting the mission, vision, and values.

Screen savers were uploaded across the network, posters put up in the call centres.

Letters were sent to EVERY employee’s home address.

And by far the worst…..KPIs were amended to reflect how staff performed in relation to the company “values”. All of a sudden, individuals were being expected to reflect imposed values. Now in most cases the values were of the stuff we would see as part of day to day….around providing great customer service, being nice to each other (and I am specifically being vague so as NOT to identify the org).

One of the specific values however was around “Trust”. Now I think that is a great value to have – to be trustworthy, and to give trust, but the issue for staff was in the lack of trust being shown by the same managers who were scoring others on trust issues. There were in inconsistencies in the behaviour being displayed, and the behaviour being talked about. Trust is extremely difficult to gain back once you have lost it, in personal or professional situations.

As a manager, or a business owner, EVERYTHING you do is on display, and all your people are looking to see how you respond (or react), and this sets the example for how your people are allowed to behave. If you do not act in a trustworthy manner, then why would you expect your people to trust you at your word? If you cannot gain trust from your people, then how will you ever hope to inspire them to achieve more?

Got any Innovative ways to Inspire your people? Comment below.