Here’s a way to discipline yourself to increase creativity on your team or in your organization…especially during times when money is tight.
When you are ready to make a purchase, ask yourself this question:
In my experience, many of the new ideas for our organization…and for my life…have come while I was doing something else.
Usually when we are working on planning a service it’s when the best ideas for a service develop…
Often when I’m working on a blog post, I get several new ideas for a blog post…
Look at most great inventions and they were discovered while doing something…many times while doing something totally unrelated to what was discovered…
Do you ever struggle to complete a project?
You have a goal, you may even know what needs to be done for the goal to become a reality, but you never seem to accomplish the necessary tasks that will bring you success. Your dreams remain simply dreams and you remain frustrated with yourself.
Let me share a quick tip to help you avoid this scenario.
Many of us, perhaps even most of us, work better under a little pressure.
Earlier this year I wrote about writing a life plan. (You can read that series of posts HERE.) I’ve found that setting a deadline for the specific action steps in a plan like this helps me be more productive…
If I have a major project I need or want to complete I will:
I recently posted on the need for leaders to delegate and some steps to doing so. (Read those posts HERE and HERE) Following this post, I asked a supposed leader in an organization for a decision from his organization. It appeared to be a minor decision. It certainly would be in our organization. I have held leadership positions in larger organizations, and it would have been a minor decision in either of those places. This leader, however, had to pass the decision up a chain of command. We eventually received a yes answer, but it took a great deal of time through several layers of people to get there. By the time we got the answer, I didn’t need it anymore. (True story.)
Several years ago I had problems with my cable service. I made numerous phone calls and several trips to the company all in an attempt to correct the problem while politely obeying what I was told to do. I realized as a pastor my community reputation was on the line, so I tried to be extremely respectful in dealings with the public – even when I was frustrated. (Actually, I am reminded it’s Biblical to guard the tongue.)
But I was frustrated. This adventure went on for weeks with each phone call and visit ending with no solution to my problem. I was simply given another step I needed to take. One more phone call. One more visit. No solutions.
And, yet, the most frustrating part of all – each unresolved phone call and visit ended the same way. The service person who had not yet solved my problem, and had actually prolonged it, asked me the same question. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
It soon became obvious the company policy required them to ask this question at the conclusion of every service encounter. I get it. Give people a script and you perhaps help ensure uniform customer service.
As I reflected on each conversation, however, it was apparent the customer service people did not have freedom of what to say in their responses. They were trained what to say for certain situations, but couldn’t alter how they ended the conversation. How was I supposed to answer this standard closing question?
I hadn’t received any help. I had received absolutely NONE.
In fact, it seem I was being delayed from getting help. How could they help me with “anything else” when they hadn’t help me with anything?
I realize without some scripting most employees wouldn’t have a clue what to say, but instead of making me feel better about my situation, it only incited a negative emotion. (Which I tried – successfully for the most part – to control.)
Then recently I was traveling on a major airline (Okay, it was American. This is a good story, so I’ll share the name.) My flight was delayed – again. And again. The “rules” of my flight would not have allowed me to change flights, yet the ticket agent saw my dilemma. In fact, she picked up on the fact that I had been on several delayed flights over the last couple days of travel. She offered to try and help. She went away for a few minutes and when she came back she had us on a new flight.
Honestly, I would have been pleased even had she not been able to shift my flight. At least she would have tried. And I don’t know if she had authority to do this or took initiative outside the rules, but it appeared at the time she “broke the rules” to accommodate a weary traveler. What great service!
These were both minor incidents, and honestly not a big deal in the story of my life, but it reminded me of an important organizational principle.
The best customer service a company can offer empowers employees the freedom to think for themselves.
They allow individuals to make the best decision – say the right things – at the moment for the setting they are in, realizing the best person to make a decision or determine what to say is the one having the conversation with the customer. In my cable situation, for example, it may have been better to say something such as, “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you this time. We will continue to work to resolve your problem.”
I would have at least felt I had been heard. Instead, I was recited a standard, pre-written line from a company handbook which really didn’t even apply to my situation.
There are organizational lessons here.
If a leader wants his or her team to make the best decisions, train them in vision, mission, overall philosophy. Teach them good customer service skills and how to ask the right questions to determine the real problem. Help them understand how to gauge customer attitudes and emotions.
Then give them the right to think for themselves!
I have heard the motto of Nordstroms Department Store is to instruct employees to always make a decision which favors the customer before the company. They are never criticized for doing too much for a customer – they are more likely criticized for doing too little. Love it.
When a person has the authority to alter the script, they are more likely to provide a positive experience for the customer.
By the way, I believe this is an important principle in the church as well. Our goal should be to help volunteers understand the vision, basic teachings and philosophies of the church – then empower them think!
Do you want to know how my cable situation was resolved? Do you like the “end of the story”?
I finally got in touch with an employee from the company I knew personally. I asked him what he would try if it were his house. He gave me a suggestion to try for myself. We went with this and the trouble was solved – in a matter of a few minutes. (And, since it was a conversation among friends, he didn’t even ask me if he could help me with anything else.)
Leaders, does your team feel freedom to make the best decision at the time? Have you freed your people to think?
When I started an insurance business from scratch, I made hundreds of cold calls. Lots of people told me no. I’ll be honest, I hated this part of starting the business, but in time I got accustomed to rejection.
It still hurt sometimes, but I learned it was a natural part of successful selling. I couldn’t get to a yes (which paid the bills) without a lot of no’s.
Life is this way also. People aren’t always going to buy-in to what you’re selling or presenting. This is never more true than as a leader. No one is going to love every idea you present.
Leaders lead to somewhere they are hoping will be better than today. But this always involves change – and tension always accompanies change. Always.
And for the leader – part of their success may be their tenacity through rejection.
The fact is no one likes rejection.
Your proposal. Your product. Your presentation.
You love it. You believe in it. You want it to go forward. How could anyone reject what you’ve put your heart into?
It’s difficult not to make rejection personal, but it should be understood rejection isn’t always against you. Many times – maybe even most times – people reject because of their own level of comfort or acceptance of whatever they are rejecting.
When my ideas are being rejected I like to ask myself some questions.
Here are 5 questions to ask when facing rejection:
Is the rejection based on truth?
Many times rejection has no basis of truth. People may reject because of their own misunderstandings or their unwillingness to accept something new. If you are selling a product, they may not want what you have to sell. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have a poor product, it simply doesn’t match their needs.
And, then, there are rejections based on truth. The idea you are proposing is not good – or it has some flaws. You need to hear this rejection – discernment is a huge part of leadership. Be willing to listen and learn. If you will allow it, their rejection may actually make your idea better.
Is the rejection about you or your presentation?
If it is personal rejection then it’s a bigger issue, but if it’s rejection of something you only represent then it should be viewed differently – not taken personally. You’re simply a messenger. This goes for a product you sell or a Gospel you tell. If someone rejects the Gospel they aren’t rejecting you as much as they are God. Let Him deal with rejection.
If rejection is about you may need to ask yourself bigger questions, such as: Am I too pushy? Do I have a caring approach? Do others genuinely think I care for them? How can I communicate the importance of whatever I’m proposing, without devaluing them or their opinions? (You may need to get coaching and insight from others if your ideas are constantly rejected because of your approach.)
Am I the wrong person to present the idea?
Sometimes rejection comes because you’re not an opinion which matters to them. This may sound harsh, but you weren’t called to minister to or lead everyone. A mentor once told me to find my affirmation among the people God sent me to minister to. Great advice. As a church planter, I would have many ideas (ideas dealing with methods, not theology) which were easily rejected by people in established churches. But, they weren’t to whom God had called me to minister. Why should I be bothered by their rejection?
I’ve learned I’m not always the one to propose something to an audience. I’ve had ideas, for example, which I believe could make our community better. I’ve learned those ideas are often more easily accepted when I can get some seasoned business or community leaders excited about them first. Their opinion often matters more than a pastor who has only been in town a few years. The same is true in the church. Some ideas come better from a volunteer than a paid staff member.
Is the rejection permanent?
Sometimes people say no – even many times – before they say yes. They have to warm up to the idea. They need to process it in a healthy way. I’ve found these people often become the best supporters, because they have wrestled through their objections first.
Persistence often makes the difference with great salespeople – and some of the best leaders. No one likes a pest or someone who can only see their ideas as valuable, but don’t be quick to dismiss an opportunity after initial rejection. It may prove to be the best idea ever if you wait. Timing is often everything.
Is the rejection based on a part or a whole?
This can be huge. Did the rejection have more to do with the overall idea or just some aspect of the idea? This is where you have to learn to ask good questions, know your audience, and be willing to compromise on minor issues and collaborate on major issues. This is where good leadership is necessary. You may have to educate people on what they don’t understand. You may have to allow input to make the idea stronger and more acceptable. If it doesn’t impact your overall goal or mission, be willing to listen, learn and make the final result even better.
Rejection doesn’t have to mean the end. Instead, it could only be an obstacle and be used to improve things in the end. The best destinations are met with many roadblocks. Standing firm through the rejections are a part of good leadership.
I am frequently asked how to spur momentum. Every leader wants it, yet it often seems hard to attain – and once we experience momentum we always want more.
I have been blessed to be part of some tremendous seasons of momentum in churches where I served as pastor or planter. We are beginning to experience some momentum again with Leadership Network.
I am always quick to point out that God is ultimately in control of His Kingdom – whether the church or a Christian nonprofit. I get no credit and don’t want it.
But I have also never been afraid to point to what God has done through His people. In my experience, He often allows people to lead. I believe He has gifted each of us with uniqueness and imagination for a reason. I believe the parable of the talents is an example of the way God wants us, especially as Kingdom leaders, to make wise decisions with what He has given us. (That even sounds Biblical. 1 Corinthians 12:27)
So how do we stir momentum? How does the body, functioning together, spur momentum?
In my observation, there are 3 basic ways momentum is usually encouraged.
Here are 3 ways momentum is fueled:
Innovation – I’m using this term to highlight improving what is currently existing. This could also be called development. When you take what you have and attempt to make it even bigger or better people notice and it makes room for more excitement and more enthusiasm.
Something new often creates more momentum.
Creativity – Dreaming. Brainstorming. Ideas. Intentional randomness. This part of stirring momentum can be temporary or even one time activities.
The fact is we can’t be more creative than the Creator so don’t be afraid to “think outside the box”. Creating something unusual or something that has never been tried before gives momentum an explosive potential.
Change – Change means altering something that currently exists. It creates immediate energy. Momentum. Every time. Change the classes you offer. Change the times of your services. Change the people in leadership.
Change spurs momentum.
Those are the 3 fuels of momentum I’ve observed.
It should be noted that not all momentum is positive momentum. There is such a thing as negative momentum and it can often grow stronger and faster than the positive kind. Sometimes you can get momentum without doing anything. It could be through inactivity, disregard, or tragedy. So beware of negative momentum.
Be careful, smart and consistent with trying to spur positive momentum. And, in my experience, you can often reverse negative momentum with more positive momentum. Which, by the way, requires more innovation, creativity or change.
I’m not pretending that’s easy. In fact it’s hard. That’s why it requires leadership. But figuring out what causes momentum isn’t difficult either.
Of course, with any principle, knowing and doing are two different issues. But, at least now you know what I have observed, by experience, about fueling momentum.
And I’m confident someone has better observations than me.
Cheryl and I were once on a long airplane flight. It wasn’t the longest flight we had been on by far, but it seemed longer than it was. We managed to get the last seat in the back corner of the plane. There was no window, no reclining to the seat and limited leg room. I realize that’s typical these days for most seats, but this was the worst seat I ever had on an airplane and I’ve flown a bunch.
To make matters worse, the guy in front of me reclined his full 3 inches and wouldn’t sit still the entire flight.
I already knew I was semi claustrophobic, but this flight confirmed it. I thought I was going to die. I allowed myself to be psyched into a frizzy of miserableness. Cheryl tried to calm me, but I was restless.
I know it sounds extreme, and like I am a big baby, but it became that big of a deal for me at the time. I had to do something. (Even funnier was that I read a book about a WWII POW survivor on this trip. Talk about surviving – I am a sissy!)
So, how did I survive?
And why this post?
Because the way I turned an uncomfortable situation into a manageable situation was a lesson for me for other life situations. The kind that last longer than an airplane flight.
Here’s what I did:
Thought about destination. We were getting out of town. We were going somewhere exciting. It was a vacation. Better times were ahead.
Reminded myself this was temporary. I knew this would pass. It wasn’t my permanent home or situation.
Redirected my thoughts to something that I enjoyed thinking about. (Such as writing a blog post.) And planning a new strategy. And studying my Bible.
It made the trip more pleasant and helped me arrive in a better mood. Cheryl was happy about that.
But, as I said, it helped me process how I respond in other claustrophobic times of life.
When you feel stuck or like the walls are closing in around you – when you are miserable in your current circumstances –
Here’s what you do:
Look at the Destination – Think about where you’re going – maybe in your work or in life. Likely better days are ahead. If you’re a believer – a follower of Christ – you are living with some promises. But if we head ourselves in the right direction, and make wise and strategic decisions, things will likely improve with time.
(If you’re not on the right path – redirect is your step here.)
Remember the Temporary – Remember life has ups and downs. These days shall pass. good and bad seasons are a part of life.
And, as Paul said, even if troubles last a lifetime, these “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us a glory that far outweighs” anything of this world.
Change your thoughts – In many ways we are what we think about – especially in our emotions. Many times what we think about determines how we feel.
Again, Paul said, “whatever is pure, whatever is noble, if anything is excellent or praise worthy – think about such things”. Maybe we need to think better thoughts.
Often when we have a proper perspective we can sit back, relax and better enjoy the flight.
Just for fun, what’s the most miserable flight you’ve ever been on and what made it so?
Do you want to know the fastest way to encourage change?
I have practiced this one for years and it almost always triggers change. It has worked in business, government and church. It worked in church planting and in church revitalization.
It is cost effective too.
The quickest way to spur organizational change:
Expose leaders to new ideas.
In a team environment, where people are empowered to lead, new ideas produce change.
Often faster than any other way.
That’s why I encourage attending conferences when possible. I pass along blogs, podcasts and articles I read. We have often read books together as a staff.
Keep in mind, this works as long as people are allowed to dream – and the leader doesn’t have to control everything. When people are introduced to new ideas it produces energy and momentum. As team members attempt something new, change happens. Often quickly.
It doesn’t have to be monumental change to create excitement. Tweaks, slight improvements and small adjustments can create an atmosphere and an appetite for change on a team.
And the best part – there is always less resistance to major change when change is a part of the culture.
One way we practiced this was in the most recent church where I served as pastor. We often used training budget to take our entire ministerial staff and spouses to another city and church several times larger than our church. They had usually figured out some things we were still learning. We toured the church and then each staff member met with their counterpart staff member at the other church. We would ask questions and explore their story. It was always insightful.
I never knew how it would work or what ideas we would uncover, but I was sure of one thing. It would expose us to some new ideas. We would come home with some immediate changes to consider. Plus our team bonded and there was a new energy and momentum developed.
And that’s a win for me.
Do you want to encourage to encourage change quickly? Expose your team to some new ideas.