Creating a Culture of Innovation

Once you’ve committed to an innovation strategy, you need to make sure that the culture will support it. In addition to the many steps the leaders must take (which were mentioned in prior blogs), here are a few additional tips:

  • Make sure that teams tasked with producing potentially disruptive innovations are truly cross-functional. The diversity of perspective is key to both spurring creativity and avoiding potential blindspots when it comes to execution.
  • Keep innovation teams connected to the core business. While companies often separate the “skunk-works” early stage innovation efforts from the rest of the company, it’s important that once the innovation take shape, it graduates and is re-housed in the department that will operate it hereafter. This encourages excellence in execution because the core business has that skillset and key relationships.
  • Assure that key leaders are actively engaged in the process. They are the bridge between the stage of innovation development and execution.
  • Measure the impact of the new technology from the long-term, not short-term perspective. Not all technologies have immediate higher profit margins than the legacy business; your job is to figure out how it can be incorporated into the larger business and eventually become more valuable. At this time, most use of sustainable energies are not as cost-effective as legacy sources of energy. But governments take the long view in supporting them. Companies need to do the same thing – or else their competitors will figure it out and then disrupt them.

Do you have other innovation culture-related advice to share? Please do.

What’s Your Power Position?

Identifying the customer’s real needs is critical to faciliate a sale. Matching it with your unique capability  is just as important – and the answer needs to be identified before preparing your sales presentation.

In Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer note that company sale presentations need to positioned from strength. They need to focus on:

  • the strategic need that your customer has, so he/she understands why it’s important;
  • your strength – why you are “uniquely” qualified to meet that need,
  • providing defensible proof of both of the above propositions.

Most importantly, these presentations cannot be based on facts alone – they need to be embedded in a story that evokes the emotions of your audience and drive them to the conclusion that your proposal is a competent business solution and that you and your team are a reliable, trusted partner.

Such presentations create for you a position of power for two reasons. First, it’s what your customer needs to hear to accept your proposition. Second, your competent, presentation generates confidence – and self-confidence is the way to conquer any speaking anxieties. Again, as our ADAP formula (Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations) teaches when you focus on meeting all the customer’s needs, you’re outward-focused, which leaves little room to focus internally at your insecurities!

What’s your experience here? Share with us.

Take Control of the Agenda

Most people say that regularly scheduled corporate meetings tend to be relatively non-productive (or as they say, “a waste of time”).  Recently, while I was coaching a client for an upcoming negotiation, it occurred to us that the negotiation rule “whoever speaks first, controls the agenda” also applies to staff meetings… and that means you have the power to make them less boring.

Think of the staff meeting as the consumption of time (30 minutes +/- more time). The person who creates the agenda, controls how well or poorly it’s used. Therefore, the best way to make sure the meeting time is well used – is to have a hand in its design.  Often clients report that senior leaders are working inside their own “silos” and do not spend time working together on planning, collaboration, and joint execution.

I often suggest that they create short weekly meetings to make sure that everyone’s on the same page concerning company-wide issues, are sharing challenges for which they need input from others, and are getting the input. To ensure that the time is well used, set up systems in which each participant has some control over the agenda (by submitting their most important issue(s) in advance so everyone knows what could be on the table). Also, control the amount of time and energy per topic to keep it succinct. (E.g., allocated five-ten minutes brief discussion to each topic, with the group able to add more time if it’s deemed valuable! If no-one has an issue that needs to be shared or discussed, then that meeting is scrapped, putting even more pressure on using the limited time well.

How to you keep meetings meaningful and succinct? How to you make sure the time is being used well?  Share your best practices with us!

Increase Leader’s Innovation Effectiveness

With millennials increasingly taking over leadership roles, it’s important to train them to increase their ability to help their teams to be more innovation-effective.

Samuel Bacharach, in The Agenda Mover, notes three leadership competencies that future leaders should have:

  • Innovation Competence. Since not everyone is naturally good at ideation and innovation, leaders need to understand the process of ideation and know how to create safe environments where teams are free to risk and discuss ideas while collaborating with one another.
  • Political Competence. As we all know, not everyone will love a new idea. Therefore, the leader needs to navigate the company’s political terrain, anticipate resistance, decide how to handle it, especially by building effective coalitions. Remember, the goal is buy-in by other leaders with the political power.
  • Managerial Competence. Once someone on your team has passed the early stages of development – continuing to get resources and keeping the team motivated for as long as needed is the management challenge. Enabling teams to continue working together, during good and bad times, through collaboration and support is critical. Momentum must be sustained to achieve results.

 What’s your experience as an innovation leader with these three competencies? What’s your experience with training new leaders to gain these competencies? Share with us.

Leadership: A Coach’s Views

Lou Holtz was one of the most successful college football coaches in history. A few years ago, he spoke on leadership at the CEO Council conference about success, failure and leadership and provided some interesting insights, which I’d like to share.

The most important responsibility of a CEO relates to vision:

  • You must have a vision of where the company is going
  • You need to communicate it constantly to relevant stakeholders
  • You need to articulate the strategy of how you’re getting there

A second issue is to serve as a role model. You need to demonstrate your commitment to execution in every action, including forging a culture that’s committed to the values that underlie the strategy. The core values, for a family, company and country are not to be comprised.

Holtz had three core values and three rules:

  • Do the right thing, because if you do, you generate trust among the team
  • Do everything to the very best of your ability within the allotted time – not because people are looking but because everything, even the small things, make a difference
  • Care about one another.

The biggest CEO mistake he’s observed is the fear of risking success.  When you have so much success, the expectations get so great that winning is a relief. Fear of losing leads to a failure to raise the standards.  After nine straight years of success, you’re on top and say “This is pretty good. Let’s not risk it. Let’s not jeopardize it, let’s not change anything. Let’s maintain.” And the result is that the team finished second. “You’re either growing or you’re dying.”

To keep growing, you need to have dreams and set goals, and answer some tough questions:

  • What sacrifices am I willing to make to achieve the goals?
  • What skills and talents do I have to acquire in order to do that?
  • Who do I have to work with to get things done?
  • How are they going to benefit when you reach the goal?
  • What problems will you have to overcome to meet the goal?

Lou’s view is that leadership is more than just solving problems – its anticipating them and eliminating mistakes before they happen. As the leader this is done personally and by making your people the best they can be – often by taking them outside of their comfort zone because “most people don’t know how good they can be.” Sage advice.

What do you think?  What are your core leadership issues? Share with us.

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