Tag Archives: Leadership

You Can’t Innovate Without This One Thing

You Can't Innovate Without This One Thing

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

It just landed on your desk. Or maybe you campaigned to get it. Or perhaps you just started doing it. How the title of “Innovation Leader” got to your desk doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that it’s there, along with a budget and loads of expectations.

Of course, now that you have the title and the budget, you need a team to do the work and deliver the results.

Who should you look for? The people that perform well in the current business, with its processes, structures, and (relative) predictability, often struggle to navigate the constant uncertainty and change of innovation. But just because someone struggles in the process and structure of the core business doesn’t mean they’ll thrive creating something new.

What are the qualities that make someone a successful innovator?

70 answers

A lot of people have a lot to say about the qualities and characteristics that make someone an innovator. When you combine the first four Google search results for “characteristics of an innovator” with the five most common innovation talent assessments, you end up with a list of 70 different (and sometimes conflicting) traits.

The complete list is at the end of this article, but here are the characteristics that appeared more than once:

  1. Curious
  2. Persistent
  3. Continuously reflective
  4. Creative
  5. Driven
  6. Experiments
  7. Imaginative
  8. Passionate

It’s a good list, but remember, there are 62 other characteristics to consider. And that assumes that the list is exhaustive.

+1 Answer

It’s not. Something is missing.

There is one characteristic shared by every successful innovator I’ve worked with and every successful leader of innovation. It’s rarely the first (or second or third) word used to describe them, but eventually, it emerges, always said quietly, after great reflection and with dawning realization.

Vulnerability.

Whether you rolled your eyes or pumped your fist at the word made famous by Brene Brown, you’ve no doubt heard it and formed an opinion about it.

Vulnerability is the “quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”  Without it, innovation is impossible.

Innovation requires the creation of something new that creates value. If something is new, some or all of it is unknown. If there are unknowns, there are risks. Where there are risks, there is the possibility of being wrong, which opens you up to attack or harm.

When you talk to people to understand their needs, vulnerability allows you to hear what they say (versus what you want them to say).

In brainstorming sessions, vulnerability enables you to speak up and suggest an idea for people to respond to, build on, or discard.

When you run experiments, vulnerability ensures that you accurately record and report the data, even if the results aren’t what you hoped.

Most importantly, as a leader, vulnerability inspires trust, motivates your team, engages your stakeholders, and creates the environment and culture required to explore, learn, and innovate continuously.

n + 1 is the answer

Just as you do for every job in your company, recruit the people with the skills required to do the work and the mindset and personality to succeed in your business’ context and culture.

Once you find them, make sure they’re willing to be vulnerable and support and celebrate others’ vulnerability. Then, and only then, will you be the innovators your company needs.


Here’s the full list of characteristics:

  1. Action-oriented, gets the job done
  2. Adaptable
  3. Ambitious
  4. Analytical, high information capacity, digs through facts
  5. Associative Thinker, makes uncommon connections
  6. Breaks Boundaries, disruptive
  7. Business minded
  8. Collaborative
  9. Compelling Leader
  10. Competitive
  11. Consistent
  12. Continuously reflects (x3)
  13. Courageous
  14. Creative (x3)
  15. Curious (x4), asks questions, inquisitive, investigates
  16. Delivers results, seeks tangible outcomes
  17. Disciplined
  18. Divergent Thinker
  19. Driven (x3)
  20. Energetic
  21. Experiments (x2)
  22. Financially oriented
  23. Flexible, fluid
  24. Formally educated and trained
  25. Futuristic
  26. Giving, works to benefit others, wants to make the world better
  27. Goal-oriented
  28. Has a Growth mindset
  29. Highly confident
  30. Honest
  31. Imaginative (x2)
  32. Influential, lots of social capital
  33. Instinctual
  34. Intense
  35. Iterating between abstract and concrete thinking
  36. Learns through experiences
  37. Likes originality, seeks novelty
  38. Loyal
  39. Motivated by change, open to new experiences
  40. Networks, relates well to others
  41. Observes
  42. Opportunistic mindset, recognizes opportunities
  43. Opportunity focused
  44. Passionate (x2)
  45. Patient
  46. Persistent (x4)
  47. Persuasive
  48. Playful
  49. Pragmatic
  50. Proactive
  51. Prudent
  52. Rapidly recognizes patterns
  53. Resilient
  54. Resourceful
  55. Respects other innovators
  56. Seeks understanding
  57. Self-confident
  58. Socially intelligent
  59. Stamina
  60. Takes initiative
  61. Takes risks
  62. Team-oriented
  63. Thinks big picture
  64. Thrives in uncertainty
  65. Tough
  66. Tweaks solutions constantly
  67. Unattached exploration
  68. Visionary
  69. Wants to get things right
  70. Willing to Destroy

And the sources:

Image Credit: Pixabay

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3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers

3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Most of my advice to leaders who want to use innovation to grow their businesses boils down to two things*:

  1. Talk (and listen) to customers
  2. Do something

But what if you don’t want to talk to customers?

After all, talking to customers can be scary because you don’t know what they’ll say. It can be triggering if they say something mean about your product, your business, or even you as a person. It can be draining, especially if you’re an introvert.

Plus, there are so many ways to avoid talking to customers – Send a survey, hire a research firm to write a report, invoke the famous Steve Jobs quote about never doing customer research.

Isn’t it just better to stay tucked away in the office, read reports, state opinions as if they are facts (those opinions are based on experience, after all), and make decisions?

Nope.

It is not better. It is also not safer, easier, or more efficient.

To make the best decisions, you need the best data, which comes from your customers.

But that doesn’t mean you need to talk to them to get it.

The best data

The best data helps you understand why your customers do what they do. This is why Jobs to be Done is such a powerful tool – it uncovers the emotional and social Jobs to be Done that drive our behavior and choices (functional Jobs to be Done are usually used to justify our choices).

But discovering Jobs to be Done typically requires you to talk to people, build rapport and trust in a one-on-one conversation, and ask Why? dozens of times so surface emotional and social JTBD.

Luckily, there are other ways to find Jobs to be Done that don’t require you to become an unlicensed therapist.

Observe your customers

Go where your customers are (or could be) experiencing the problem you hope to solve and try to blend in. Watch what people are doing and what they’re not doing. Notice whether people are alone or with others (and who those others are – kids, partners, colleagues, etc.). Listen to the environment (is it loud or quiet? If there’s noise, what kind of noise?) and to what people are saying to each other.

Be curious. Write down everything you’re observing. Wonder why and write down your hypotheses. Share your observations with your colleagues. Ask them to go out, observe, wonder, and share. Together you may discover answers or work up the courage to have a conversation.

Quick note – Don’t be creepy about this. Don’t lurk behind clothing racks, follow people through stores, peep through windows, linger too long, or wear sunglasses, a trench coat, and a fedora on a 90-degree day, so you look inconspicuous. If people start giving you weird looks, find a new place to people-watch.

Observe yourself

Humans are fascinating, and because you are a human, you are fascinating. So, observe yourself when you’re experiencing the problem you’re hoping to solve. Notice where you are, who is with you, the environment, and how you feel. Watch what you do and don’t do. Wonder why you chose one solution over another (or none).

Be curious. Write down everything you did, saw, and felt and why. Ask your colleagues to do the same. Share your observations with your colleagues and find points of commonality and divergence, then get curious all over again.

Quick note – This only works if you have approximately the same demographic and psychographic profiles and important and unsatisfied Jobs to be Done of your target customers.

Be your customer

What if your business solves a problem that can’t be easily observed? What if you don’t have the problem that your business is trying to solve?

Become your customer (and observe yourself).

Several years ago, I worked with a client that made adult incontinence products. I couldn’t observe people using their products, and I do not have important (or unsatisfied) Jobs to be Done that the products can solve.

So, for one day, I became a customer. I went to Target and purchased their product. I went home, wore, and used the product. I developed a deep empathy for the customer and wrote down roughly 1 million ways to innovate the product and experience.

Quick note – Depending on what’s required to “be your customer,” you may need to give people a heads up. My husband was incredibly patient and understanding but also a little concerned on the day of the experiment.

It’s about what you learn, not how you learn it

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking there is one best way to get insights. I’m 100% guilty (one-on-one conversations are a hill I have died on multiple times).

Ultimately, when it comes to innovation and decision-making, the more important thing is having, believing, and using insights into why customers do what they do and want what they want. How you get those insights is an important but secondary consideration.

* Each of those two things contains A TON of essential stuff that must be done the right way at the right time otherwise, they won’t work, but we’ll get into those things in another article

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World

Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Meeting face to face, for a lovely lunch recently, with a coaching colleague, we were both shocked to discover how stressed and anxious we were feeling about being asked to deliver live workshops and face-to-face coaching to clients once again.

We shared how emotionally, mentally, and physically overwhelmed we felt, despite having decades of knowledge, experience, and skills in being able to deliver deep learning programs and face-to-face coaching sessions, about doing live gigs again! We also agreed, that despite the range of largely effective emotionally intelligent coping strategies we developed to help ourselves and our clients self-regulate, self-manage, to better adapt to the pandemic-imposed work-from-home restrictions that the past two and half years of working, alone, and in isolation, online, had taken its toll.

We acknowledged and accepted that we along with many of our clients were all suffering from elevated levels of stress, discomfort, and anxiety. We then agreed that it was time to focus on exploring how to better help ourselves and our clients reconnect and reset by enabling them to create states of well-being, emotional agility, and mental fitness, where they can feel good, can function well, and be effective and innovative in an increasingly chaotic world.

To seek new ways of enabling ourselves and our clients to deal effectively with a range of unresourceful feelings including helplessness, powerlessness, and fearfulness about an uncertain future. 

We noticed that these feelings often caused many of our clients to contract and freeze, and become immobilised as a result of what we describe as a “bubble” of self-induced silo-based behaviours. That often evolved into extreme self-centeredness, and unconscious selfishness, which ultimately increased their feelings of isolation and loneliness, and lack of belonging, resulting in defensive and avoidant behaviours, in what is becoming an increasingly chaotic world.

How are these ways of being and acting impacting organisations?

Partnering in a wide range of online global coaching sessions, we noticed that a number of common trends emerged as to how our client’s teams and organisations, are being impacted at the cultural level:

  • Immobilization – many people are unable to self-manage their work from home workloads and are quietly burning out, through being overly task-focused and busy, whilst others are preferring to work autonomously, and not waste hours commuting.
  • Lacking safety and trust – many organisations are freezing all of their change initiatives, learning programs, and projects, causing people to fear loss and overall job insecurity, where many people are contracting more deeply within their “bubbles” and become even more distrustful of leadership and even more passively defensive and avoidant.
  • Lacking clarity and foresight – many organisations have slipped into being so reactive, focussing only on delivering short-term results, and are not communicating a clear strategy for leading the way forwards.

Resulting in:

  • Increased resistance to change and going back to the office adds to people’s inertia, and to their sense of disconnection and lack of belonging.
  • Increased risk adversity and conventional (cost cutting), tactical and short-term focus, inhibits any investment in Research and Development or the skills development required in developing and executing a future innovation strategy.
  • People have become even more fearful of failure, and are not stretching themselves to adapt, grow, learn and innovate with disruption, and often choosing to merely change jobs, in a competitive job marketplace, driven by scarcity, as a perceived short term solution.

A unique moment in time

This has created an opportunity, in this unique moment in time, to focus on being kinder to ourselves and to others by helping and supporting each other, respectfully and compassionately, creatively and courageously, to reconnect and reset. Despite rising levels of economic, civic, and social uncertainty and unrest.

What made sense yesterday may not make so much sense today.

Many of the mental models we applied yesterday may not be relevant for tomorrow because corporate culture, civic and social structures have drastically changed and digitalization has become commonplace, noting that we are shifting from a VUCA to BANI world where:

  • Brittle has replaced Volatility.
  • Anxiety reflects Uncertainty.
  • Non-linearity is an addition to Complexity.
  • Incomprehensibility is ultimately the consequence of our non-linear world and goes one step further than Ambiguity.

Paradoxically, this has created new openings to genuinely explore and discover new thresholds to adapt, generate new mindsets, develop skill sets, and power up our toolkits to keep pace with the effects of the emerging BANI world and capture complex systems by asking a  key generative or catalytic question:

How might you support and enable others to think and act differently in such a world, where old patterns seem to crumble while new ideas and systems still need to be created, invented, innovated, and established?

As the world of work changes, so does the need for everyone to consider how to be more open-hearted, minded, and willed with one another.

A final word from Gallop CEO Jon Preston in the Gallop Global Emotions Report:

“All over the world, people are trying to understand the rise of violence, hatred, and increased radicalization. They will continue to argue over what the best policy responses should be and what role social media plays in fueling negative emotions.

However, policymakers must understand why so many more people are experiencing unprecedented negative emotions and focus on the drivers of a great life.

Our shared humanity and wellbeing depend on it”.

When we generously and kindly demonstrate care, respect, and appreciation for the value everyone brings, we can also demonstrate helpfulness and support, through our unconditional willingness to reconnect and reset.

Resulting in an ability to co-create a better sense of belonging and a more optimistic outlook, through enhancing our emotional intelligence.  To effectively self-regulation and self-manage the superpowers and strategies required to thrive, flourish and flow, and make transformational changes in the face of relentless uncertainty, disruption, and a chaotic world.

This is the first in a series of three blogs on the theme of reconnecting and resetting, to create, invent and innovate in an increasingly chaotic world. You can also register for our free 45-minute masterclass on Thursday, 25th August, to discover new ways of re-connecting through the complexity and chaos of dis-connection to create, invent and innovate in the future! Find out more.

Image credit: Pixabay

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‘Fail Fast’ is BS. Do This Instead

'Fail Fast' is BS. Do This Instead

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“Fail Fast”

It’s an innovation mantra uttered by everyone, from an entry-level programmer at a start-up to a Fortune 100 CEO.

But let’s be honest.

NO ONE WANTS TO FAIL!

(at any speed)

The reality is that we work in companies that reward success and relentlessly encourage us to become great at a specific skill, role, or function. As a result, our natural and rational aversion to failure is amplified, and most of us won’t even start something if there’s a chance that we won’t be great at it right away.

It’s why, despite your best efforts to encourage your team to take risks and embrace “failure,” nothing changes.

A Story of Failure?

A few weeks ago, while on vacation, I dusted off an old copy of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. As a kid, I was reasonably good at drawing, so I wasn’t worried about being bad, just rusty.

Then I read the first exercise: Before beginning instruction, draw each of the following:

  • “A Person, Drawn from Memory”
  • “Self-Portrait”
  • “My Hand”

I stared at the page. Thoughts raced through my head:

  • You have to be kidding me! These are the three most challenging things to draw. Even for a professional!
  • How am I supposed to do this without instructions?
  • Maybe I’ll skip this step, read the rest of the book to get the instructions I need, then come back and try this once I have all the information.
  • Forget it. I’m not doing this.

Confronted by not one but THREE things to be bad at, I was ready to quit.

Then I took a deep breath, picked up my trusty #2 pencil, and started to draw.

The results were terrible.

A Story of Success

It would be easy to look at my drawings and declare them a failure – my husband is missing his upper lip, I look like a witch straight out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and the thumb on my left hand is the same length as my index finger.

But I didn’t fail*.

I started

I did my best

I learned a lot

I did better the next time.

By these standards, my first attempts were a success**

Ask for what you want

Isn’t that what you want your team to do?

To stop analyzing and posturing and start doing.

To do their best with what they have and know now, instead of worrying about all the possibilities.

To admit their mistakes and share their learnings.

To respond to what they learned, even if it means shutting down a project, and keep growing.

Ask them to do those things.

Ask them to “Learn fast.”

Your people want to learn. They want to get smarter and do better. Encourage that.

Ask them to keep learning.

Your team will forget that their first attempt will be uncomfortable and their first result terrible. That’s how learning starts. It’s called “growing pains,” not “growing tickles,” for a reason.

Ask them to share what they learned.

Your team will want to hide their mistakes, but that doesn’t make anyone better or wiser. Sharing what they did and what they learned makes everyone better. Reward them for it.

Ask the team what’s next

It’s not enough to learn one thing quickly. You need to keep learning. Your team is in the trenches, and they know what works, what doesn’t, and why. Ask for their opinions, listen carefully, discuss, and decide together what to learn next.

You don’t want your team to fail.

You want them to succeed.

Ask them to do what’s necessary to achieve that

“Act Now. Learn Fast.”

*Achieving perfect (or even realistic) results on my first attempt is impossible. You can’t fail at something impossible

** To be clear, I’m not making a case for “participation trophies.”  You gotta do more than just show up (or read the book). You gotta do the work. But remember, sometimes success is simply starting.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Why Data-Based Decisions Will Lead You Straight to Hell

Why Data-Based Decisions Will Lead You Straight to Hell

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Many years ago, Clay Christensen visited his firm where I was a partner and told us a story*.

“I imagine the day I die and present myself at the entrance to Heaven,” he said. “The Lord will show me around, and the beauty and majesty will overcome me. Eventually, I will notice that there are no numbers or data in Heaven, and I will ask the Lord why that is.”

“Data lies,” the Lord will respond. “Nothing that lies can be in Heaven. So, if people want data, I tell them to go to Hell.”

We all chuckled at the punchline and at the strength of the language Clay used (if you ever met him, you know that he was an incredibly gentle and soft-spoken man, so using the phrase “go to Hell” was the equivalent of your parents unleashing a five-minute long expletive-laden rant).

“If you want data, go to Hell.”

Clay’s statement seems absolutely blasphemous, especially in a society that views quantitative data as the ultimate source of truth:

  • “In God we trust. All others bring data.” W. Edward Deming, founding Father of Total Quality Management (TQM)
  •  “Above all else, show the data.” – Edward R. Tufte, a pioneer in the field of data visualization
  • “What gets measured gets managed” – Peter Drucker, father of modern management studies

But it’s not entirely wrong.

Quantitative Data’s blessing: A sense of safety

As humans, we crave certainty and safety. This was true millennia ago when we needed to know whether the rustling in the leaves was the wind or a hungry predator preparing to leap and tear us limb from lime. And it’s true today when we must make billion-dollar decisions about buying companies, launching products, and expanding into new geographies.

We rely on data about company valuation and cash flow, market size and growth, and competitor size and strategy to make big decisions, trusting that it is accurate and will continue to be true for the foreseeable future.

Quantitative Data’s curse: The past does not predict the future

As leaders navigating an increasingly VUCA world, we know we must prepare for multiple scenarios, operate with agility, and be willing to pivot when change happens.

Yet we rely on data that describes the past.

We can extrapolate it, build forecasts, and create models, but the data will never tell us with certainty what will happen in the future. It can’t even tell us the Why (drivers, causal mechanisms) behind the What it describes.

The Answer: And not Or

Quantitative data Is useful. It gives us the sense of safety we need to operate in a world of uncertainty and a starting point from which to imagine the future(s).

But, it is not enough to give the clarity or confidence we need to make decisions leading to future growth and lasting competitive advantage.

To make those decisions, we need quantitative data AND qualitative insights.

We need numbers and humans.

Qualitative Insight’s blessing: A view into the future

Humans are the source of data. Our beliefs, motivations, aspirations, and actions are tracked and measured, and turned into numbers that describe what we believed, wanted, and did in the past.

By understanding human beliefs, motivations, and aspirations (and capturing them as qualitative insights), we gain insight into why we believed, wanted, and did those things and, as a result, how those beliefs, motivations, aspirations, and actions could change and be changed. With these insights, we can develop strategies and plans to change or maintain beliefs and motivations and anticipate and prepare for events that could accelerate or hinder our goals. And yes, these insights can be quantified.

Qualitative Insight’s curse: We must be brave

When discussing the merit of pursuing or applying qualitative research, it’s not uncommon for someone to trot out the saying (erroneously attributed to Henry Ford), “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a horse that goes twice as fast and eats half as much.”

Pushing against that assertion requires you to be brave. To let go of your desire for certainty and safety, take a risk, and be intellectually brave.

Being brave is hard. Staying safe is easy. It’s rational. It’s what any reasonable person would do. But safe, rational, and reasonable people rarely change the world.

One more story

In 1980, McKinsey predicted that the worldwide market for cell phones would max out at 900,000 subscribers. They based this prediction on solid data, analyzed by some of the most intelligent people in business. The data and resulting recommendations made sense when presented to AT&T, McKinsey’s client.

Five years later, there were 340,213 subscribers, and McKinsey looked pretty smart. In 1990, there were 5.3 million subscribers, almost 6x McKinsey’s prediction.   In 1994, there were 24.1M subscribers in the US alone (27x McKinsey’s global forecast), and AT&T was forced to pay $12.6B to acquire McCaw Cellular.

Should AT&T have told McKinsey to “go to Hell?”  No.

Should AT&T have thanked McKinsey for going to (and through) Hell to get the data, then asked whether they swung by earth to talk to humans and understand their Jobs to be Done around communication? Yes.

Because, as Box founder Aaron Levie reminds us,

“Sizing the market for a disruptor based on an incumbent’s market is like sizing a car industry off how many horses there were in 1910.”

* Except for the last line, these probably (definitely) weren’t his exact words, but they are an accurate representation of what I remember him saying

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of June 2022

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of June 2022Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. We also publish a weekly Top 5 as part of our FREE email newsletter. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are June’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. An Innovation Action Plan for the New CTO — by Steve Blank
  2. The Lost Tribe of Medicine — by Arlen Meyers, M.D.
  3. What Can Leaders Do to Have More Innovative Teams? — by Diana Porumboiu
  4. Transformation Insights — by Bruce Fairley
  5. Selling To Generation Z – This is What They Want — by Shep Hyken
  6. It is Easier to Change People than to Change People — by Annette Franz
  7. Leading a Culture of Innovation from Any Seat — by Patricia Salamone
  8. Harnessing the Dragons of your Imagination for Innovation — by Braden Kelley
  9. Successful Asynchronous Collaboration — by Douglas Ferguson
  10. Four Reasons the Big Quit Exists — by Braden Kelley

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in May:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last two years:

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Transformation Insights – Part Two

Transformation Insights - Part Two

“The world needs stories and characters that unite us rather than tear us apart.”~ Gale Anne Hurd, Producer of Aliens and The Terminator

GUEST POST from Bruce Fairley

In my early years I was fortunate to spend some time on film sets. Unlike how the entertainment industry is portrayed in the Netflix series, The Movies that Made Us, I did not come to blows with any of my directors as Eddie Murphy apparently did with John Landis during the making of Coming to America. Nor did I witness an entire crew mutiny, as James Cameron did on Aliens. Instead, I often saw the same dynamic I’ve witnessed in the tech sector from the first moment I stepped off set and into I.T.

People coming together.

Skilled, diverse, passionate people hard at work fighting against miscommunication, technical issues, and time constraints – coming together to achieve something significant. I referred to this in my previous Transformation Insights post, The Future Always Wins as:

Collaboration Between Complementary Influencers.

This dynamic is as true of a film set as it is of a firm engaged in digital transformation. In both cases, expertise in various areas is required to create a successful whole, with C-Suite leaders in the corporate sphere tasked with providing the articulated vision at the helm. Of course, the success of any endeavor comes down to human-powered action and decision making at every level of execution. And while the challenges of a digital transformation project may not be as bone-breaking dangerous as the stunts in an action film, getting to greatness requires a similar fusion of mind and machine – of talent and technology.

If that sounds like The Terminator, consider that its box office success speaks to the fusion of mind and machine as an unstoppable trajectory – but those who deepen their humanity rather than succumb to machine rule are the heroes that triumph. This was mirrored in the making of the film, which was nearly shut down when the crew put down their tools. Addressing their humanity and acknowledging the value of their contribution changed the story from disaster to blockbuster.

Humans lead – technology serves. Not the other way around.

When that is reversed, dystopia ensues whether on screen or in the boardroom. Having witnessed many occasions in which technology was expediently obtained before its value to the user could be established, I am convinced we have lost the plot in telling a wider, corporate story. Technology was supposed to liberate not enslave. Instead, how many times have you attended a Zoom meeting or prepared weeks for a presentation only to discover the sound not working, the slide deck freezing, or even a hidden ‘on’ button? These may be simple examples, but they rob the intrepid hero of the corporate journey; the chance to shine and advance their creative talent much like the crew of Aliens putting down their tools. Now multiply that by the large scale digital transformation projects I’ve spearheaded, and it becomes clear how a broken axis between human-powered decision making and technology can break the bottom line.

Optimism and momentum towards a more positive, successful outcome hinges on more than technological expertise. It requires an understanding of the whole story – and how the team, tech, leadership, and consumers each play a role. The story you wish to tell about your corporate journey requires buy-in at every level of service – human and tech. Obstacles are not indictments, they are merely obstacles. But they do often require a third-party complementary collaborator that understands how to transform pitfalls into profits.

When I launched the Narrative Group I wanted to amplify the genius of C-Suite executives through the optimization of the business-tech relationship. Similarly to how I observed the inner workings of a set and how all the pieces had to fit together to create a screen success, I spent years observing digital transformation from the inside. Across continents and boardrooms, I learned, led, and transformed as well. This only increased my commitment to helping talented leaders tell their story successfully.

If you’re a C-Suite leader that would like to storyboard the trajectory of your corporate success, please feel free to reach out and continue the conversation at:

connect@narrative-group.com

Image Credit: The Narrative Group

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What Can Leaders Do to Have More Innovative Teams?

What Can Leaders Do to Have More Innovative Teams?

GUEST POST from Diana Porumboiu

Talent is one of the main drivers of innovation and its scarcity and high value makes it a frequent cause for concern for leaders from all over the world. And for good reason. Quality talent can make a business up to 800 times more productive.

But some of the biggest managerial challenges of senior leaders are finding the right talent and encouraging innovative behavior in employees. In fact, only 23% of managers and senior leaders believe they have good methods in place to acquire and retain the best talent.

So, how do you find the right people, retain them, and get them to drive more innovation? Putting together innovative teams and making sure that you have the best talent in the organization is not just an HR responsibility. From top executives to managers and leaders, they all have a part to play in the quest for talent that can help the organization drive more innovation.

To this end, we wrote this article for people in large organizations, whether they are innovation managers, leaders, or executives, who want to build talented teams that can actually drive more innovation.

We’ll go through some important points on the characteristics of innovative employees and provide some practical tips on how to get better talent and tap into the potential of current workforce to drive more innovation.

Why organizations need more employees involved in, and trained for, innovation work

We know that at a global level there is a shortage of highly skilled employees, and that even large companies with all their resources, don’t excel at finding and retaining talent.

Even though unemployment is still a big problem in many areas of the world, the rapid pace of change in recent times have showed that there is also an increasing shortage of talent.

Before 2020, a Gallup survey revealed that 73% of respondents were thinking of leaving their job. The pandemic hit, along with a crisis for many workers, but also with a wakeup call for other employees. And the Great Resignation, where 25 million people in the US quit their jobs in the second half of 2021, is proof of these unpredictable changes.

So, maybe now more than ever organizations should make sure that they are prepared and that they have the right workforce to help them thrive in the future.

Finding top talent is difficult, it takes time and it’s expensive. There is no way around it, organizations need more people once they start growing. At the same time, inside most companies there are also huge opportunities to unlock value from the existing workforce.

  • Untapped internal innovation potential

As it’s becoming more difficult to recruit top talent who can make more innovation happen, businesses that lack the knowledge and support for future growth are on shaky grounds.

But the conversations around the war for talent are not enough to provide real solutions on how to get more people involved in innovation work. Of course, as businesses grow, the need for more people to support that growth is obvious. However, when it comes to innovation capabilities, we don’t hear that often discussions around internal scouting and training of the existing workforce who can turn into assets for innovation.

How to tap into the full potential of employees? The approaches can vary, but a good start that works for almost any company, is to include everyone in the conversation, create a sense of belonging and give them a voice. This option is always worth pursuing and for a more in-depth guide on how to do that you can also check our article on collecting ideas from frontline employees.

Include everyone in the conversation, create a sense of belonging and give them a voice.

A second approach is to actually have them implement and drive innovation, but this is more complicated and requires a very structured approach and well implemented innovation management processes.

Either way, employees would benefit from training on innovation as is understood and applied within your organization. A common understanding of what innovation is for you, as a company, and how to achieve it, can reveal more potential than you first imagined you had.

There is still some controversy around the topic, and some believe that not everyone can be an innovator. While that can be true to some extent, innovation comes in different forms and shapes and almost everyone can contribute to innovation in one way or another if the context allows for it. Which takes us to our next point.

  • Innovation can be everyone’s job

While innovation might not come natural to most people, it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn the skills and mindset required for it. Even though not everyone has the curiosity and openness to explore new opportunities and ways of improving their work, they should still be encouraged and incentivized to be more innovative. And we believe it all starts at the top.

Innovation should be approached both top-down and bottom-up, but unless it starts from the top with great leaders who set the tone and support innovation, the chances of success are slim. At the same time, the front-end of innovation is where everyone can and should contribute, while the back-end execution requires more specialized skills and knowledge.

Viima Innovation Management Funnel

The bottom line here is that you can achieve a lot more innovation if you give everyone an opportunity to contribute. Most ideas, especially those that lead to incremental innovation come from the front-line employees, as they are the ones in close contact with your customers, products, and services. Even though most of these won’t necessarily change the trajectory of your business, when you put them together, they can make a huge difference in the performance of the core business.

  • Knowledge — source of innovation and competitive advantage

Speaking of competition, intangible assets, more prominently knowledge, are one of the major competitive advantages for organizations. Even more, tacit knowledge, the know-how, wisdom and experiences of employees which is not codified or explicit, represents an important driver for innovation.

As soon as you start working on harnessing that knowledge by creating the environment that enables transparent communication and flow of information, you will have more people involved in everyday innovation activities like idea challenges.

If you promote an innovation culture

“Even if people themselves might not be innovators, they are still likely to support innovation instead of blocking it by being resistant to change.”

So, if we look at it from this perspective, everyone in the organization can contribute to innovation with the right leaders at the helm, some good skills development programs, and a sound scouting system in place. But for that, we first need to understand what makes an employee innovative and what are the traits that define innovative thinking.

What makes employees innovative?

In simple words, innovation stems from a mix of creativity and action. However, even if creativity is important, it is often overrated compared to execution, which makes change happen and gets things done. To get to execution in the corporate setting, you also need good communication and collaboration.

At a macro level, things seem simple but at the micro level, the individual’s set of skills and traits required for innovation can’t be summed up in a couple of words.

Employee Pondering

So, let’s see what makes someone innovative, what to pay attention to, and what skills innovators should learn and develop. This can help you assess whether some of your team members excel in some areas or if they need to refine other skills or behaviors.

  • Growth Mindset

The road to innovation is paved with uncertainty and risk, so innovators will always need to push into the unfamiliar. This comes natural to those with a growth mindset, who are usually inclined to be more open to change. On the other hand, those with a fixed mindset will be more reluctant to try something new or explore beyond what they are used to.

In short, a growth mindset is compatible with innovation because those who possess it, believe their abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. Innovation work will most certainly mean that you will fail at some point, or your assumptions will prove to be false. Those with a growth mindset are resilient, curious, and eager to learn, so such failures won’t hold them back.

There is a common misconception that a fixed mindset can’t be transformed, since it is after all, fixed. The good news is that neuroscience has proved the plasticity of our brains, which means that behaviors and mindsets can be changed, even at a more mature age. But more on that, in the next section.

  • Skills

As mentioned earlier, if you want to build an innovation culture and inspire innovative thinking within your organization, it’s not enough to have the most creative people. There are certain skills that encourage the proactive “doers” to act and execute on innovation.

Some of these skills for innovation are critical thinking, which helps with problem solving, curiosity, which allows for exploration and learning, good communication which enables collaboration and teamwork, and of course the hard skills necessary to actually implement innovation.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of skills for innovation, but they can be seen as the basis on which people can build and improve their skills. The key thing to remember is that for some types of innovation, you want people that can move things forward and get them done.

  • Values

Maybe less pragmatic, but just as important in getting more people on the innovation boat, are the personal values. Values guide behavior and explain behavioral patterns. We tend to act instinctively according to our core values and according to empirical studies, certain values foster innovative behavior while others might impede it.

Our previous article on cultural differences and innovation explains more in depth the relation between people’s beliefs and innovation, so we won’t go too much into detail here.

While some theories like the Theory of Basic Human Values of Schwartz or Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory stem from cultural psychology and communication, they have been extended and applied to economics and the corporate world as well.

For example, one of the ten broad personal values identified by Schwartz, self-direction, is defined as someone being independent in thought, inclined to choose, create, and explore. On the other hand, someone that values conformity and security more, will be less inclined to accept change, or challenge the status quo.

Schwartz Theory Basic Values

Source: https://i2s.anu.edu.au/resources/schwartz-theory-basic-values

These can be measured through the Schwartz Value survey and the Portrait Values Questionnaire. Of course, this is just one practical method, and it has its limitation, as it’s not always easy to apply in a corporate context. However, these methods can still be helpful in providing some guidelines on personality traits and values that are more inclined toward innovation.

So, let’s move from theory to practices that can encourage and nurture innovative behaviors in employees.

How to nurture innovative behavior in your organization

Most leaders concerned about the future of the organization they work for have asked themselves at some point how to unlock more innovation potential and it’s not easy to find the right answer. That’s because there is no single correct answer, but rather a mix of strategy, leadership approaches, resources, and practices.

The first noteworthy element that ignites innovation behavior is as simple as having the ambition to pursue specific goals that highlight the role and value of change and innovation.

Having the right goals that provide focus and direction is essential to set the stage and make it explicit that everyone has a role to play in improving the way they, and the company at large, operate and behave.

The next steppingstone that reinforces and support the goals are the processes that can lead to change and innovation. These are essential in strengthening teams that work on those goals and make things happen. Such processes will look different for each organization. Whether it’s a specific time allocation like the 15% or 20% rule for innovation, or idea management processes, these are crucial for long-term success.

Now, there are also other methods that are essential in nurturing an innovative behavior and these are mostly related to leaders’ soft skills and their ability to create the environment where innovation can flourish.

  • Foster a growth mindset

As already mentioned, there is a myth that you either have the growth mindset or you don’t. In fact, brains keep on changing, together with the cognitive abilities, and a fixed mindset can be developed into a growth one. How to achieve this in practice?

Start by identifying the fixed mindset patterns in your employees. Is someone giving up quickly? Maybe they avoid challenges and prefer the comfort zone, or they avoid negative feedback and are always prepared with the answer “It’s not my job” or “I’m not good with words, or creative enough”. These are all signs that point to a fixed mindset.

To change this, set smart goals and offer learning opportunities that are aligned with those goals. People with a fixed mindset usually hang on to old habits because they had success with those, and they’ve been measured based on them. So, create reward systems that encourage new ways of working and challenge people to take risks.

People with a fixed mindset usually hang on to old habits because they had success with those, and they’ve been measured based on them.

For example, Tata Group worked on developing an innovation culture for many years and as part of their initiative they have a prize for the best failed idea. The purpose is not to fail for the sake of failing but to encourage innovation.

Such initiatives should come from leaders who are willing to address the root causes of their employees’ uncertainty and reluctance to novelty. However, to be able to implement similar initiatives, leaders should take a step back and consider another element, which is critical: psychological safety in the workplace.

  • Psychological safety

The concept of psychological safety dates to 1999 and it refers to the belief that one will not be punished or shamed if speaking up or coming up with ideas, questions or concerns. Studies show that when employees feel comfortable to challenge the status quo without fearing negative consequences, organizations can innovate faster and adapt well to change.

Leaders have the greatest impact on team climate, and they have the power to influence internal behaviors more than anyone. A McKinsey survey reveals how leaders should develop their skills through leadership programs that focus on specific skills. Among the skills that have the biggest influence on creating psychologically safe work environments are the open dialogue skills, sponsorship, and situational humility.

While the theory helps us understand the importance of psychological safety in the workplace, it doesn’t provide practical answers. So, let’s briefly look at some concrete examples that leaders can put in practice to inspire more trust, and safety.

A good place to start is Laura Delizonna’s framework for psychological safety, which is based on four key pillars: Care, Courage, Co-elevate, Commitment.

Laura Delizonna Psychological Safety Framework

Care

Care is about empathy and the openness to understand one another even if you don’t agree. Showing care means practicing active listening, showing interest and empathy.

For example, some organizations have team rituals like check-ins. One technique is the PIE check-in when each person in the team takes a few seconds to talk about their Physical, Intellectual and Emotional state.

Another technique you could use is the Rose Bud Thorn, where you ask each person to share a positive of the week (rose), something that emerged (the bud) and something that is challenging (the thorn).

There are other techniques and most of them work well even in remote environments. Also, something as simple as coffee chats, ask me anything sessions, sharing rituals like celebrating birthdays or holidays can all help in showing care and empathy. Leaders should constantly offer their support, assess people’s needs and burnout risk.

Courage

To inspire courage, leaders first have to show courage. They should walk the talk and be open with their vulnerabilities, mistakes, and challenges. So, while it might be difficult for some, true leaders show the way by admitting when they don’t know something, asking questions and showing interest to learn and improve their skills. Owning errors publicly and as soon as they happen has a big impact on team morale and attitude towards failure.

As a leader you can share your learning journey where you include the goal, the adversities you faced, experiments you made and failed and lessons you learned.

Co-elevate

Co-elevate is about inspiring and empowering others to bring their best, not just cooperate. Study shows that leaders think they give recognition 80% of their time, while team members feel they receive recognition 30% of the time. There is a disconnect in how we communicate.

Some best practice to co-elevate is to express appreciation that is frequent and specific. What do you appreciate in someone’s approach? How did their work influence the results and you personally? What specific behaviors can you praise?

Just as important is to solicit input and how you do that makes all the difference. Instead of leaving room at the end of a meeting for people to add something, change the approach to ask opposing views, or what someone would do in your place, etc. Remember to thank those who speak up and give an opposing argument.

As you can see, there are many nuances when communicating, providing, and asking for feedback. Once you create procedure and different pathways that allow for contribution, things will get easier.

Commitment

Commitment is what brings everything together. Leaders need to commit to experiments and to try to do something differently. Set goals for things you want to change. You can start with one experiment every day.

Psychological safety and a growth mindset are essential if you want to unleash the innovation potential of employees. However, nurturing them takes time, so you won’t see results overnight. It’s important to remember that as leaders you set the scene and lead the way. Unless you take baby steps to display the innovative behavior you expect from others, you won’t be able to move the needle in the right direction.

Conclusion

Neuroscience taught us that even as adults, our brains are malleable, so if some employees might seem resistant to change, disengaged or lack creativity, first ask yourself if there is something you can do differently. Maybe they don’t have the environment where they can flourish, or they are not led by people who allow them to shine.

Inevitably, there’s always going to be someone who resists change, who can’t be converted to a growth mindset or innovative thinking. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. Their support can contribute to incremental innovation and continuous improvements. It’s also more cost-efficient to train existing workforce than always looking for something you believe it’s missing.

When you’ll inevitably have to scout externally for new talent to support innovation work, consider a few key elements: the employer brand, innovation culture, leadership training programs, as well as the processes and mechanisms that facilitate innovation.

This article was originally published in Viima’s blog.

Image credits: Viima, Unsplash, Pexels

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Taking Personal Responsibility – Seeing Self as Cause

Taking Personal Responsibility – Seeing Self as Cause

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our last two blogs on Taking Personal Responsibility, we stated that when people aren’t taking personal responsibility, they cannot be accountable, they will fail in their jobs, and their teams, and fail to grow as individuals and as leaders. Taking personal responsibility is an especially crucial capability to develop self-awareness and self-regulation skills in the decade of both disruption and transformation. It all starts with seeing self as the cause of what happens to us, rather than baling it on the effects events and problems have on us! Where people can learn to recognize the structures at play in their lives and change them so that they can create what they really want to create in their lives, teams, or organizations.

In the last two blogs, we shared a range of tips for shifting people’s location, by creating a line of choice, to help them shift from being below the line and blaming others for their reactive response, to getting above the line quickly.  Through shifting their language from “you, they and them” to “I, we and us” and bravely disrupting and calling out people when they do slip below the line. How doing this allows people to also systemically shift across the maturity continuum, from dependence to independence and ultimately towards interdependence.

In a recent newsletter Otto Scharmer, from the Presencing Institute states “Between action and non-action there is a place. A portal into the unknown. But what are we each called to contribute to the vision of the emerging future? Perhaps these times are simply doorways into the heart of the storm, a necessary journey through the cycles of time required to create change”.

Creating the place – the sacred pause

When I made a significant career change from a design and marketing management consultant to becoming a corporate trainer, one of the core principles I was expected to teach to senior corporate managers and leaders was taking personal responsibility.

Little knowing, that at the end of the workshop, going back to my hotel room and beating myself up, for all of the “wrongs” in the delivery of the learning program, was totally out of integrity with this core principle.

Realising that when people say – those that teach need to learn, I had mistakenly thought that I had to take responsibility for enacting the small imperfections I had delivered during the day, by berating myself, making myself “wrong” and through below the line self-depreciation!

Where I perfectly acted out the harmful process of self-blame, rather than rationally assessing the impact of each small imperfection, shifting to being above the line where I could intentionally apply the sacred pause:

  • Hit my pause button to get present, accept my emotional state,
  • Connect with what really happened to unpack the reality of the situation and eliminate my distortions around it,
  • Check-in and acknowledge how I was truly feeling about what happened,
  • Acknowledge some of the many things that I had done really well,
  • Ask myself what is the outcome/result I want for participants next program?
  • Ask myself what can I really learn from this situation?
  • Consciously choose what to do differently the next time I ran the program.

I still often find myself struggling with creating the Sacred Space between Stimulus and Response and have noticed in my global coaching practice, that many of my well-intentioned clients struggle with this too.

The impact of the last two and a half years of working at home, alone, online, with minimal social interactions and contact, has caused many of them to languish in their reactivity, and for some of them, into drowning in a very full emotional boat, rather than riding the wave of disruptive change.

Being the creative cause

In our work at ImagineNation, whether we help people, leaders and teams adapt, innovate and grow through disruption, their ability to develop true self-awareness and be above the line is often the most valuable and fundamental skill set they develop.

It then enables us to make the distinction that creating is completely different from reacting or responding to the circumstances people find themselves in by applying the sacred pause.

When people shift towards seeing self as the cause they are able to create and co-create what they want in their lives, teams or organization by learning to create by creating, starting with asking the question:

  • What result do you want to create in your life?
  • What is the reality of your current situation?

This creates a state of tension, it is this tension that seeks resolution.

In his ground-breaking book The Path of Least Resistance Robert Fritz, goes on to describe and rank these desired results as “Fundamental Choices, Primary Choices, and Secondary Choices.”

Because there is one thing that we can all do right and is totally in our control – is to shift towards seeing self as the cause and make a set of conscious choices, with open hearts, minds, and wills, as to how we think, feel and choose to act.

“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals.”

We all have the options and choices in taking responsibility, empowering ourselves and others to be imaginative and creative, and using the range of rapid changes, ongoing disruption, uncertainty, and the adverse pandemic consequences, as levers for shifting and controlling, the way we think, feel.

Benefits of seeing self as the cause and being above the line

Applying the sacred pause to make change choices in how we act – and being brave and bold in shifting across the maturity continuum, will help us to cultivate the creativity, interdependence, and systemic thinking we all need right now because it:

  • Helps people self-regulate their reactive emotional responses, be more open-hearted and emotionally agile, and helps develop psychologically safe work environments where people can collaborate and experiment, and fail without the fear of retribution or punishment.
  • Enables people to be more open-minded, imaginative, and curious and creates a safe space for continuous learning, maximizing diversity and inclusion, and proactive intentional change and transformation.
  • Promotes ownership of a problem or challenging situation and helps develop constructive and creative responses to problems and an ability to take intelligent actions.
  • Gives people an opportunity to impact positively on others and build empowered trusted and collaborative relationships.
  • Enables entrepreneurs and innovators to invent creative solutions and drive successful innovative outcomes.
  • Building the foundations for accountability, where people focus their locus of control on what they promise to deliver, enables them to be intrinsically motivated, and take smart risks on negotiating outcomes that they can be counted on for delivering.

Tips for seeing self as the cause and operating above the line

Taking personal responsibility and seeing self as the cause involves:

  • Acknowledging that “I/we had a role or contributed in some way, to the fact that this has not worked out the way “I/we wanted.”
  • Clarifying the outcome or result in you want from a specific situation or a problem.
  • Seeking alternatives and options for making intelligent choices and actions, and using the language of “I/we can” and “I/we will” to achieve the outcome.
  • Replacing avoiding, being cynical and argumentative, blaming, shaming, controlling, and complaining with courageous, compassionate, and creative language and acts of intention.
  • People become victors who operate from “self as cause” where they are empowered to be the creative forces in their own lives by making fundamental, primary, and secondary change choices.
  • Trust your inner knowing and deep wisdom that everything has a specific and definable cause and that each and every one of us has the freedom to choose how to respond to it.

Back to leadership basics

As Stephen Covey says, people need to deeply and honestly say “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday” because it’s not what happens to us, it’s our reactive response to what happens that hurts us.

Being willing to step back, retreat, and reflect on the gap between the results you want, and the results you are getting all starts with stepping inward, backward, and forwards, using the sacred pause, to ask:

  • What happened? What were the key driving forces behind it?
  • How am I/we truly feeling about it?
  • What was my/our role in causing this situation, or result?
  • What can I/we learn from it?
  • What is the result/outcome I want to create in the future?
  • What can I/we then do to create it?

As a corporate trainer, consultant and coach, I found out the hard way that developing the self-awareness and self-regulation skills in taking personal responsibility and seeing self as the cause is the basis of the personal power and freedom that is so important to me, and almost everyone else I am currently interacting with.

It’s the foundation for transcending paralysis, overwhelm, and stuck-ness and activating our sense of agency to transform society and ourselves.

This is the third and final blog in a series of blogs on the theme of taking responsibility – going back to leadership basics. Read the previous two here:

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, October 18, 2022. It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus,  human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Taking Personal Responsibility – Creating the Line of Choice

Taking Personal Responsibility - Creating the Line of Choice

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our last blog, we described how people’s personal power is diminished when they don’t take personal responsibility for the impact of their behaviors and actions and the results they cause. Where many people are feeling minimized and marginalized, anxious as a result of being isolated and lonely, worrying about losing their security and freedom, and dealing with the instability in their working environments.  Resulting in many people disengaging from the important conversations, job functions, key relationships, workplaces, and in some instances, even from society. Where managers and leaders lack the basic self-awareness and self-regulation skills to control the only controllable in uncertain and unstable times, is to choose how to respond, rather than react to it.

We have a unique moment in time to shift their defensiveness through being compassionate, creative, and courageous towards helping managers and leaders unfreeze and mobilize to exit our comfort zones.  To take intelligent actions catalyze and cause positive outcomes, that deliver real solutions to crises, complex situations, and difficult business problems.

Why do people avoid taking personal responsibility?

People typically avoid taking personal responsibility for reasons ranging from simple laziness, risk adversity, or a fear of failure, to feeling change fatigued, overwhelmed, or even victimized by the scale of a problem or a situation.

Resulting in a range of different automatic defensive, and a range of non-productive reactive responses including:

  • Avoidant behavior, where feel victimized and targeted, people passively “wriggle” and the buck gets passed onto others, and the real problem or issue does not get addressed or resolved.
  • Controlling behavior, where people ignore their role in causing or resolving the real problem or issue, and aggressively push others towards their mandate or solution, denying others any agency.
  • Argumentative behavior, where people play the binary “right-wrong” game, and self-righteously, triggered by their own values, oppose other people’s perspectives in order to be right and make the other person wrong.

Creating the line of choice

At Corporate Vision, we added a thick line of “choice” between “personal responsibility” and “blame, justification and denial” to intentionally create space for people to consider taking more emotionally hygienic options rather than:

  • Dumping their “emotional boats” inappropriately onto others, even those they may deeply care about,
  • Sinking into their habitual, and largely unconscious default patterns when facing complex problems, which results in the delivery of the same results they always have.
  • Not regulating their automatic reactive responses to challenging situations, and not creating the vital space to pause and reflect to think about what to do next.

To enable them to shift towards taking response-ability (an ability to respond) and introducing more useful options for responding in emotionally agile, considered, constructive, inclusive, and creative ways to the problem or the challenge.

Noticing that when we, or others we interact with, do slip below the line to notice whether to “camp” there for the long term or to simply choose to make the “visit” a short one!

Doing this demonstrates the self-awareness and self-regulation skills enabling people to take personal responsibility. Which initiates ownership and a willingness to be proactive, solutions, and achievement orientated – all of which are essential qualities for 21st century conscious leadership that result in innovative outcomes that result in success, growth, and sustainability.

Shifting your location – from “you, they and them” to “I, we and us”

Developing the foundations for transformational and conscious leadership involves:

  • Supporting people to acknowledge and accept that the problem or challenge is not “out there” and is within their locus of control or influence.
  • Shifting the “Maturity Continuum” to enable leaders and managers to be both independent and interdependent.
  • Creating a line of choice to think, act and do things differently.
  • Calling out people when they slip below the line.

It involves supporting people to let go of their expectation that “they” or someone else, from the outside, will fix it, and supporting them to adopt a stance where:

  • “I” or “we” can and are empowered to do it,
  • “I” or “we” are responsible for getting above the line,
  • “I” or “we” can choose a different way of being, thinking, and acting intelligently in this situation.

Developing conscious leadership

At any time, everyone is either above or below the line because it is elemental to the type of conscious leadership we all need to survive and thrive, in a world where people are seeking leaders, managers, and working environments that require interdependence.

To operate in the paradigm of “we” – we can do it; we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.

We cooperate together by creating the line of choice where we call out to ourselves and others when we slip below it, to get above the line as quickly as possible.

Where interdependent people and communities combine their efforts, and their self-awareness and self-regulation skills with the efforts of others to achieve their growth and greatest success by increasing:

  • Transparency and trust,
  • Achievement and accountability,
  • Diversity and inclusion,
  • Experimentation and collaboration.

All of these are founded on the core principle of taking personal responsibility, which is an especially crucial capability to develop self-awareness and self-regulation skills in the decade of both disruption and transformation.

Bravely calling out self and others

When we take responsibility for managing our own, “below the line” reactive responses, by habitually creating the line of choice, we can bravely call out ourselves and others when we slip below it.

Because when we don’t call ourselves and others we interact with, we are unconsciously colluding with their emotional boats, default patterns, and automatic reactive responses, which inhibit their ability to effect positive change.

When we safely awaken ourselves and others, we can get back above the line quickly and choose different ways of being, thinking, and acting intelligently in the situation.

Alternately, people aren’t taking personal responsibility, they cannot be accountable, they will fail in their jobs, and their teams, and fail to grow as individuals and as leaders.

In fact, developing a habitual practice of emotionally intelligent and conscious leadership by safely and bravely disrupting ourselves and our people, in the face of ongoing uncertainty, accelerating change, and continuous disruption.

This is the second in a series of three blogs on the theme of taking responsibility – going back to leadership basics.

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, October 18, 2022. It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus,  human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context.

Image credit: Unsplash

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