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Innovation is a term you hear a lot in the leadership sphere. But, what does innovation really mean? I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Nilda about making a difference as a leader. Following is a recap of key insights from our conversation.  You can please do also watch the video of our interview below.

Dr. Nilda Perez Interviewed by Susan Mazza's Founder of Random Acts of Leadership - YouTube

What Is Innovation?

Let’s start by describing what we mean when we talk about innovation. Innovation is looking at your job or your industry, and taking a different perspective. Ask yourself, “What’s not working? What hasn’t changed in my industry in xxx years? What can I do to solve this problem or make things better for my employees, my industry, my clients?” When you’re looking for improvement and make things better, now that’s innovation.

Why Leaders Should Care About Being Innovative

In today’s world, we are constantly taking in information at a rapid pace. Customers and employees want their problems solved immediately. Talking openly about the problems that your employees or customers are facing provides an opportunity for innovation. Problem-solving allows everyone to brainstorm, turning the “me vs. you” mentality into a “we” mentality.

If you want to change your leadership and really spark innovation in your organization, listen to the people around you. Ask yourself, “What do they need to be able to do their best work every day?” At the end of the day, there are a group of people you serve – the people you lead.  Getting into their world and understanding their frustrations will help you understand where you should be innovating in the first place. Only by realizing where you are stuck, can you look at the problem with a different perspective.

How Leaders Can Leverage Innovation in Their Everyday Work
  1. Know the trends in your industry. Get connected with things in your industry. Go to an industry level conference or, if you have a creative enough idea, try presenting at a conference.
  2. Always ask that “why” question. Why are we doing things this way? How can we improve it? Asking these questions gets us to realize where we are stuck and puts us in a creative state of mind.
  3. Look for problems to solve. Your customers and staff are always telling you where the problems are, but leaders often don’t pay attention. Instead of looking at problems as negatives, look at them as opportunities to try something new or improve the lives of others. Problems are great opportunities to bring people together and brainstorm ways in which to make it better.

To truly be an effective and successful leader, you need to be open, creative, and innovative. Looking at things with foresight will put you ahead and give you the opportunity to change your leadership and your organization for the better.

In what ways have you engaged your employees to come up with an innovative solution to a problem? Answer in the comments.

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Following is a guest post from a client, Lori Zipes, a Systems Engineer with the US Navy.  She is someone who exemplifies the power of everyday leadership.  I continue to be impressed and inspired by Lori’s courage in opening up challenging conversations in a way that others can hear and engage in authentically to cause positive change in her workplace.  This is just one of the many examples of powerful conversations Lori initiates.

It’s always a nice discussion when female colleagues come to chat and share experiences and counsel. During the course of some recent informal mentoring sessions, two of my colleagues confided in me that they had cried in front of someone in a professional setting. Both showed a sense of regret, or a bit of shame; it’s difficult to articulate, but it was evident that they wished it had not happened. I shared with them both that I had at one point in my career been in an extremely difficult and frustrating position and had cried in front of MY BOSS (worst possible situation) several times. Every single time I was trying with all my might to not let it happen, but it did.

Neither of these women are people I would consider to be “weak” in any way. In fact, both are incredibly competent, dedicated and driven women who are excellent at their jobs. So it has been really bothering me that when tears fall, the perception is that the person can’t handle what is going on, that they are weak, that THEY are the problem. I hate that these women feel badly that they got visibly upset because, frankly, given the situation with which each was dealing, they had every right to be upset. These women care very deeply about what they are trying to accomplish. Their commitment to success runs deep, and they take the responsibility of their position very seriously. When things are very wrong, rather than saying, “Oh well, it’s just work,” they get upset. That strikes me as not anything related to weakness. In fact, it seems to me a sign of strength. A strength of commitment to their organization or our mission that should be appreciated, not seen as a flaw or failure. These are the people who will likely fix what is wrong.

So the next time you see someone getting emotional over work, I ask you to consider this:

Instead of seeing them as weak, consider that they may be one of your most valuable assets.

Lori works as an engineer for the US Navy and is a “graduate” of Susan’s Leadership in Action™ program.  She and several of her colleagues have been engaged in proactive efforts to support women, and encourage them to aspire to leadership positions.  Initiating perspective-changing conversations like this one is part of their strategy. 

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Do you care more about something you are doing or something others are doing? I know the question is a little vague – but go with me here. Let me restate the question: Do you care more about the renovation at your neighbor’s house or the plans to update your own home?

Here’s the point I’m trying to make: People don’t generally get as excited about what other people are doing as they do about something they are doing. If people in our organizations do not feel connected to the vision of our organization, any progress or accomplishments in this arena will create little passion, enthusiasm, energy, or satisfaction.

If your people feel disconnected from the vision this is bad news for the organization and your people – especially for Top Talent. Our research reveals their deeply held desire to make a difference. That’s why a Bigger Vision is one of the critical elements to create a Talent Magnet.

So, if you are trying to create a place that attracts Top Talent, what is the leader’s responsibility? Here’s how we begin to answer this question in the Talent Magnet Field Guide…

A vision is of no value unless people know it. But, let’s face it, there is something more important than knowing. For a vision to move people to action, they must feel personally connected to it. Vision-driven organizations create stakeholders who share the quest. That’s why a leader has the responsibility to Foster Connection.

Research shows that top performers want to make a difference in the world, and therefore, they desire meaningful work that creates impact beyond products and profits. Your job as a leader is to ensure team members know their daily actions matter to the bigger picture and leave no doubt the work they do on a daily basis fuels the accomplishment of the vision. You must help them connect the dots.

As the leader, you cannot delegate the vision. Your responsibility is to continually clarify, protect, and model the way forward. If you are diligent, your best people will become ambassadors of impact and your influence will spread. Additionally, your company will become a place where others want to be a part of the movement.

If you really want to attract great talent, be sure your existing team feels a real and personal connection to the vision.

About Mark Miller

Mark Miller is the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. In addition to his newly released book, Talent Magnet: How to Attract and Keep the Best People, he has also written The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do (2007), Chess Not Checkers (2015), and Leaders Made Here (2017). Today, over 1 million copies of Mark’s books are in print in more than two dozen languages.

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“Your words are your wand.” – Florence Schovel Shinn

Words are the tools leaders use to shape what is possible for the future, as well as the experience of the present for better or for worse.

A leader’s words can…

Build someone’s self-esteem,
or diminish their sense of self-worth.

Evoke excitement and enthusiasm,
or stoke fears and trepidation.

Bring people together,
or tear them apart.

Create a sense of optimism about the future,
or feed negativity and resignation.

Provide a sense of certainty that builds a foundation of confidence and trust in themselves, in each other and in the future.
Or sow doubt and divisiveness.

Lift people’s sights higher by bringing to life a sense of meaning, purpose, and possibility,
or drag focus downward to the daily grind, stifling connection and self-expression.

Remember that your words matter. Choose them wisely.

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