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You’re leading a major new initiative for your organization. It’s kind of a big deal. Since you’re leading it, that means a lot of other people ARE NOT leading it. Nearly all of them are fine with that. It’s one fewer thing to be responsible for beyond their regular day jobs.

One person, however, resents the hell out of your leading the initiative.

This person (let’s make him a guy, because we all know, it’s almost always a guy) knows that HE should be leading the initiative. It’s HIS area of expertise. HE has the best experience. He’s been around longer than you have, is known by all the key executives, and basks in his reputation as always wanting to be the one credited with making things happen.

He sees the new initiative you are leading quite plainly: YOU are going to get the credit if things go well. In his twisted way, if YOU are getting credit for a success, that makes HIM look worse. That leaves only one option: do everything possible (without calling attention to it) to sabotage you, the initiative, and its ultimate success.

What leadership strategy should you employ to succeed while dealing with this type of pernicious corporate antagonist?

The expected answer is probably to keep the corporate antagonist as far away from the initiative as possible.

An Unconventional Leadership Strategy with a Corporate Antagonist

When a new executive at a company faced this situation, I counseled him to instead adopt a leadership strategy where he invites the antagonist into all the planning activities for the new initiative.

The advice surprised him.

Here’s the reason for suggesting it. Inviting the corporate antagonist into the heart of the process forces him to openly share his resistance. Participating in everything, he will be part of a lot of strategy setting, review points, and decisions. Across those opportunities, he’s going to have to either constructively participate or use crazy levels of subterfuge to hide the sabotage he really hopes to carry out successfully. If he elects to go the route of trying to jam things ups for the new initiative later, the initiative leader will have documented a whole array of comments and involvement to challenge and confront the duplicity.

According to the new executive, the strategy is working. The antagonist feels involved. He’s having to go public with several biases and perennial weak spots in his leadership style as he tries to protect his previous work.

In this case, keeping a business ally close and a corporate antagonist even closer is working even when it seems an unconventional leadership strategy. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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January 28th is, according to a Facebook post from my cousin’s husband, National Fun at Work Day. A quick check corroborated his claim, although there are questions about where the holiday originated. Since my cousin’s husband has worked at the same company for forty-two years or something, I’m willing to believe his post: if you’ve worked in one place for four decades, you have to know a little about fun at work, even when the holiday falls on a Sunday this year.

One great way to celebrate National Fun at Work Day? Download our FREE eBook on eleven ideas for fun strategic planning that are not stuffy for work.

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

We released this eBook for the traditional strategic planning season. We’re, however, finding that demand for fun strategic planning ideas now runs throughout the year. This fun strategic planning eBook tells how to incorporate surprise, new situations, and toys to bring life to ANY strategy meeting you conduct throughout the year.

Speaking of toys, we always say they don’t make strategy great, but they do make strategy fun. Fun strategy leads to greater interest in strategic planning and more opportunities for innovative strategy!

11 Tips for Fun Strategic Planning with Toys

If you are trying to figure out what toys are best at meetings, here are our 11 tips for including all the types of toys to include at strategy meetings.

You want toys that:

  1. Allow participants to build things
  2. Twist into different forms
  3. Have bright colors
  4. People can squeeze
  5. Make sounds
  6. Bounce
  7. Stick to things
  8. Are so inexpensive that you can have lots of them
  9. Will make the people at the table that doesn’t have them jealous
  10. People can safely throw at each other during tense moments
  11. Participants will want to take along at the end of the meeting

Toys rekindle kid-like creativity among haggard executives. They give fidgeters something to fidget. Toys (particularly balls) give more aggressive types something to harmlessly throw. Most importantly, though, toys are one aspect of demonstrating that strategic planning needn’t be a completely serious, mind-numbing experience for executive participants.

Download 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning today. You’ll be ready to make EVERY DAY National Fun at Work Day! – Mike Brown

11 Hot Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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What personal success strategies do high performers employ to get and stay ahead in business?

Morton T. Hansen, a business professor at the University of California, Berkley, tackles that question in a new book: Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More. (affiliate link)

According to Hansen’s article about the book in The Wall Street Journal, and based on a multi-year study of five thousand business people, the key difference in personal success strategies is the ability to be selective in taking on priorities and activities. High performers narrow the range of assignments they address and pour themselves into initiatives with intensity.

Four Personal Success Strategies for High Performers

Hansen lists four behaviors and perspectives to support selectivity for high performers:

  1. Reducing and simplifying activities
  2. Making specific trade-offs relative to new priorities
  3. Basing their work around value creation
  4. Innovating work process through varied strategies

These four personal success strategies provide a menu from which to improve your personal and team performance.

1. Simplifying Processes and Activities

Hansen discusses simplification and doing as few things as possible as important success factors. As he describes the strategy, it entails doing, “as few (things) as you can, as many as you must.”

One way to separate activities and priorities that deserve attention from those that don’t is through determining:

  • How much ability you possess to change something
  • The degree to which there is a return associated with a positive change.

Being able to make a big change with a significant return suggests an initiative to prioritize. To operationalize the strategy, we employ these questions:

  • Who is this initiative very important to, and how do they reward high performance?
  • Who would notice the impact of ignoring this?
  • At what point will the standards of everyone that matters already have been surpassed?

Within an organizational setting, there is a tendency to over-engineer simple. The simple way to simplify is to aim for as few moving parts as possible.

2. Making Trade-Offs with New Priorities

High performers are aggressive reprioritizers. In the face of new assignments and expectations, they say yes to the right things and no to things that will distract them and reduce performance.

One effective way to prioritize is to force yourself to make yes and no decisions. You can accomplish this by writing all your potential priorities on individual sticky notes. Place them on a wall or desk and select two priorities and compare them. Ask, “If I could only accomplish one of these priorities, which one is more important?” Place the priority you selected at the top of the wall or desk, with the other, lesser priority below.

Pick up another sticky note, asking the same question relative to the top-most sticky note. If the new sticky note is a more important priority, it goes on top, and the other moves down. If it’s not more important, keep moving down and asking the question (Is this one more important or is that one?) relative to each sticky note until it’s appropriately placed based on its importance.

This simple model provides a quick prioritization to help determine which priorities warrant focus when everything seems important.

3. Focusing on Value Creation

Concentrating on high-value-creation activities is another element setting high performers apart from others. Instead of checking every box on a to-do list, these individuals concentrate on activities where they can deliver the greatest value for internal and/or external customers.

Part of understanding value creation is being in touch with customers to stay abreast of how THEY perceive and prioritize value. Absent this knowledge, you run the risk of spending time and attention on activities of lesser importance.

We recommend asking three questions to identify value opportunities. You may answer them yourself, but they take on tremendous importance when those you serve provide input, so we encourage you to ask them, too.

  1. What do I deliver that provides tremendous value for others?
  2. What do I deliver that doesn’t provide real value for others?
  3. What do I focus on that has the potential for tremendous value, but falls short because of too little attention or focus?

Answers to the first and second questions should re-confirm the priorities from the previous trade-off exercise. Answers to the third question highlight areas that perhaps can become priorities through eliminating the distractions you identify in question two.

4. Innovating Processes

Hansen found that one way high-performing individuals add value is through improving processes that lead to high performance for others. You can use the priorities providing tremendous value as a starting point to look for innovation opportunities to enhance value to upstream and downstream individuals in your work processes.

For those upstream in the process, think through the view, style, and expertise this person will put into the work product for which you’ll assume responsibility. Identify where you can provide actionable feedback to better coordinate the activities between you.

For those after you in a process, identify what they expect from you. How can you anticipate what they may struggle with to help them work through challenging parts more successfully?

Enhancing Your Personal Success Strategy

Based on Hansen’s work, simplifying, prioritizing, maximizing value, and innovating are vital personal success strategies to lead you to high performance. Does that match your formula? – via Inside the Executive Suite

Download 10 Questions for Successfully Launching

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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At the church we attend on Sundays, they recite the rosary beginning thirty minutes before each mass. For the 7 a.m. Mass, there are few people present for the start, especially when there is snow on the ground. Cyndi and I arrived yesterday as the snow was flying and rosary was just starting. We took our typical place near where the individual leading the rosary sits.

With a group rosary, the leader typically says the first half of each prayer. The others present recite the second half. With even a small crowd (or a few people gathered within earshot), this approach works well. With only a few people scattered around a large church, it makes the call and response challenging, especially for the leader, who can’t hear when the other people complete their half of a prayer. The fact we were near the leader helped create some volume for the responses to help him keep pace.

When we completed the rosary, he stopped to thank us for being there, saying, “It’s always easier to lead the rosary when you are here to pray along.” I thanked him for showing up early to lead it.

4-Step Formula for Encouraging Idea Magnets and Team Members

I share this story because as we’ve been working on the manuscript for a new Brainzooming book on Idea Magnets and creative leadership, I’ve been thinking a lot about how leaders and followers encourage each another. It struck me how this simple situation underscored what leaders and followers can do for each other.

The leader:

  • Was visible and present so we knew where to find him
  • Got things started, even though the situation was less than ideal
  • Pressed on no matter what
  • Thanked the followers for participating

We, as followers:

  • Positioned ourselves near the leader
  • Dependably followed our designated role
  • Were vocal and available to help the leader more effectively perform his part
  • Thanked the leader for leading

Just a four-step formula for how leaders (and Idea Magnets) and team members encourage each other that seems like it works in most situations.

While there may be all kinds of other things going on within a team, if you as a leader or a follower, can get these four items right, you’re well down the path toward successful implementation. – Mike Brown Keep current on Idea Magnet creative leadership secrets!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Idea Magnets and Creative Thinking Formulas - "As soon as he becomes comfortable with something, he invents something else to be nervous about."

“As soon as he becomes comfortable with something, he invents something else to be nervous about.”

– Bill Berry on Michael Stipe of R.E.M. (circa 1995)

Are you too comfortable to generate new creative ideas?

Would inventing something to make you nervous align with your creative thinking formula and attract more creative ideas? If so, what do you need to invent to make you nervous?

  1. ________________________________________
  2. ________________________________________
  3. ________________________________________
  4. ________________________________________
  5. ________________________________________

You don’t have to stop at 5 things that make you nervous. You can keep adding to the list.

Here’s my list of what I could invent to make me nervous.

  1. Thinking that what I have been doing is growing old.
  2. Imagining that I have forgotten how to do what I have previously done.
  3. Reading my bad reviews.
  4. Asking people what they think about my creative ideas.
  5. Inviting my imposter syndrome in for a long night of hanging out.
  6. Staring in the mirror.
  7. Trying to figure out what I should be doing six months or a year from now.
  8. Taking away my most important creative resources.
  9. Putting myself into a completely new situation.
  10. Volunteering for something I don’t know how to do.
  11. Agreeing to teach other people about something I do without thought right now.
  12. Eating my own dog food.
  13. Throwing away all my creative crutches.
  14. Believing that anyone that says nice things to me is lying.
  15. Letting someone talk me into something I know I have no business doing.
  16. Deciding to quit going along with the crowd.
  17. Comparing myself to others that (seem they) are doing better than I am.
  18. Convincing myself that everything is about to crumble.
  19. Comparing where I am to where I thought I would be by this point.
  20. Picking up and going someplace totally new.
  21. Telling someone that thing I’ve needed to tell them forever but just haven’t been able to bring myself to do.
  22. Committing more time, dollars, or energy than I have.
  23. Saying no to a bunch of things that I would have agreed to before.
  24. Stop reframing the current situation to make things feel like tiny victories.
  25. Giving up on everything that’s worked before.
  26. Blowing up my archives of idea snippets, creative tools, and inspiration notebooks and files.
  27. Starting over from scratch.
  28. Tearing up my plans and going down a different path.
  29. Not giving myself enough time or attention to get anything done.

I understand that new creativity comes from being nervous.

I’ve experienced it.

But I’m not sure this creative thinking formula and would boost my creativity. It seems like it would trample creativity for this Michael (Brown instead of Stipe).

How would making yourself nervous fit your creative thinking formula? Let us know your thoughts over at our Facebook page! – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make Planning Strategy More Fun!

Yes, strategic planning can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Chuck Dymer and I presented to a group of logistics managers in Chicago last week. The topic was how to handle uncertain times successfully.

Tomorrow, I’ll be closing the Nature Explore and The Outdoor Classroom Project Leadership Institute with a comparable message. The conference theme is building resilience and joy in uncertain times. The audience for the presentation consists of educators, landscape designers, government officials, and others involved with creating outdoor classrooms for children. It’s all about getting kids outside to experience nature, interact, and learn. The closing presentation will be about staying strong as an idea magnet even you are uncertain of what is ahead.

Next month, Emma Alvarez Gibson and I will be delivering a couple of workshops for the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. The message will once again be similar: carrying out your mission when times are changing in ways you have not previously experienced.

Yes, dealing with uncertain times (while facing fewer or nonexistent resources) seems to be in the forefront for many different types of organizations these days.

25 Infinitely Renewable Things in Uncertain Times

One theme for the Leadership Institute presentation is finding the blue sky – the open opportunities – even amid what seems to be an onslaught of constraints and limitations. That took me to the idea of abundance thinking, one of the fundamental strategies of idea magnets. These creative leaders recognize constraints but turn their attention to the available resources that are plentiful and can always be grown.

Wanting to leave the Leadership Institute participants with a starting list of ideas, here are twenty-five things that are abundantly available – even in hard-nosed business settings.

  1. Affiliating with Others
  2. Asking Others for Help
  3. Asking Someone If You Can Help
  4. Caring for Others
  5. Cheering Each Other On
  6. Coming up with another idea
  7. Creativity
  8. Determination
  9. Doodling a Smiley Face or Heart
  10. Enthusiasm
  11. Focusing on Your Core Purpose
  12. Forgiveness
  13. Good Humor
  14. Good Intentions
  15. Hugs
  16. Humility
  17. Imagination
  18. Jumping for Joy
  19. Positive Thoughts
  20. Prayer
  21. Reaching Out to Others
  22. Remembering Successes You’ve Already Had
  23. Sharing Stories
  24. Smiles
  25. Trying One More Time

What else is abundantly available in your part of the world? If your team could use some ideas and motivation right now with handling uncertainty, we’d love to come spend time with you to share strategies that are working!  – Mike Brown

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

Things aren’t getting saner and more calm. Are you ready to pursue an implementation strategy that works in uncharted waters?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when few things ahead are clear. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.
Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times



Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Creative wave makers display both the creative thinking skills and the boldness to improve ideas and situations in dramatic, unexpected ways.

Some people are born as creative wave makers. For the rest of us, there are structures and extreme creativity questions you can use to surround yourself and boost your creative thinking skills.

Here is a list of nineteen of our most popular articles to develop and employ your own extreme creative thinking skills and those of everyone around you!

Being More of a Creative Wave Maker Yourself

Working with a Creative Wave Maker

Helping a Group with Creative Wave Making

Mike Brown

Facing Innovation Barriers? We Can Help!

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We have free Brainzooming eBooks for you to help navigate barriers and boost innovation!

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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