Leading Blog






11.09.09

Building Teams that Capitalize on the Innate Creativity of Everyone on the Team

  • Do you think there is untapped talent and unspoken knowledge on your team?
  • How much of your team’s energy is wasted with irrelevant, personality-based infighting?
  • Do your team members hold themselves accountable for living up to their commitments?
  • Which department does your team have the greatest conflict with?
  • Do you see the spark of creativity going on around you, perhaps that others aren’t seeing . . . yet?
Leadership
Everyone has the ability to be original—to do something no one else would think of—to be creative. Many of us downplay our creative ability or find ourselves in an environment where our contribution isn’t valued as it should be.

“A lone firefly—like the lone genius—does not ignite the imagination of others,” writes Kimberly Douglas in The Firefly Effect. “It takes the brilliant light of many, and the creative effort of the entire team, to truly spark innovation with impact.” The job of the leader is to “create a safe environment in which every member of the team can knowingly and proudly claim those differences, and apply them in an optimal way to achieve the goals of the team.” The leader must provide the processes that will allow every other member of the team to see each other in this new light.

These differences can create heat. “Fireflies know how to shine without creating heat—without wasting energy on unnecessary conflict.” Differences should compel us to look at individual differences more creatively. The team’s focus is key. “One of the most important things that a leader can do is keep the team focused on the real competition; those who exist outside the walls of the organization…. Making this the focus keeps people from clashing within the group. When this focus is lost, infighting and bickering among the team members thrives.” This means learning to communicate more and better. It means learning to view conflict in a new way; not as a destructive, inevitable evil, but rather as a constructive source of creative abrasion.

The Firefly Effect is about releasing that spark of creativity that exists inside all of us and channeling it in a productive way. Douglas provides down-to-earth, tested and practical methods for inspiring your team and leveraging their innate abilities. She shows how you and your team can capitalize on what is right about the people on the team.

The Firefly Effect is a changed mindset about working with others. It is a dynamic that is on display anytime you see children chase fireflies.
  • Few children chase fireflies alone. The excitement comes from the sharing of effort and results with others.
  • Everyone is clear on what the goal is—to catch fireflies—and enthusiasm remains high, because their target is so well understood and so simple.
  • Each individual knows his or her task. No one needs—or wants—a dictating leader. (See chapter 13: What to Do if the Leader is Keeping Too Tight a Lid on the Jar?)
  • Children do not criticize one another on a good firefly hunt. Everyone is clearly giving his or her best effort.
  • The group eagerly seeks out new and better ways to realize a successful result.
  • In the end, there is joy in what they accomplished together.
Douglas provides much to think about and implement:
Two key components drive powerful teams: where they’re going and how they’re going to work together to get there. The answers to these questions are inextricably tied. It simple means asking, you want to capitalize on team members’ unique differences to what end? You want to promote creativity and innovation targeted toward which business objectives, problems, or opportunities?

The team leader’s job is to create the fertile environment and clarify the landscape so that everyone knows what is important. Set the stage for the team’s success, and make effective functioning a priority. People can then make their own decisions—from compliance to commitment, from forced effort to discretionary effort—based on the best possible information that you can give them.

You tend to have a very different perspective from the top—directing the change happening to those below you—then when you are the person to whom this change is being made. Your role as the leader is to…help them see your perspective and perceive how these seemingly disparate projects and initiatives all fit under the large umbrella of a critical new strategic direction. Without this common understanding, you lose the power of their coordinated, focused efforts.
In the end, Douglas illuminates the idea that “a single person has a substantial amount of power to truly make a difference in an organization by first believing in something, and then taking action on it.” That’s leadership.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:34 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Teamwork



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