How Creative Leadership Can Bolster Resilience
Break-Up Silos & Power-Up Resilience
Resilience is like a rubber band - it may stretch and snap back, but it never loses its shape. When properly developed, and intentionally applied the result is of a mighty oak that stands tall during gale force winds. It may waver, and some branches might bend or even break, but the trunk remains strong, and the tree eventually bounces back. Resilience is all about flexibility - being able to adapt and adjust to change without compromising our core values.
Think of yourself as a rubber band: when pulled too far, you might feel like you're about to break, but with time and patience, you'll snap right back into place.
That’s one of the ways creative leadership works by stretching yourself a little bit every now and then. Ultimately, it will make you, and your teams stronger in the end.
But resilience is not just about bouncing back from setbacks, it is also about adapting to change and learning from experiences. Leaders who prioritize resilience in their teams create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. They encourage their team members to take calculated risks, learn from failures, and embrace challenges as opportunities for growth.
Moreover, resilient leaders are better equipped to handle crises and unexpected events. They can quickly assess the situation, make informed decisions, and communicate effectively with their team members. This helps to minimize the impact of the issue on the business and maintain stability during turbulent times..
There are several benefits, and ways to foster resilience, but one of the most effective, and lasting strategies is by cultivating creative leadership. This type of leadership involves inspiring your teams, leading by example, embracing risk-taking, encouraging innovation, and building strong relationships with peers, and colleagues. However, creative leadership and team cohesiveness is stunted when there are silos. But before we discuss the latter in greater detail, let’s explore the importance of resilience in the workplace, and how to cultivate a culture of resilience and creativity in your organization.
Why Resilience Matters
Being great at what you do as a Leader is just not enough anymore post COVID. Talented professionals that lack resilience will not be able to navigate the uncertainty that exists in the world today. Resilience helps individuals and teams persevere through difficult times like now without losing motivation or confidence. In the face of adversity, resilient individuals not only manage to hold their own but thrive, often coming up with ground-breaking innovations.
One fine example is Netflix, a company that started to thrive during a bleak time for video retailers. Netflix was able to thrive while Blockbuster Video failed due to its forward-thinking approach that strategically focused on the emerging demand for streaming services.
As technology advancements revolutionized the way people consumed their content with the popularity of DVD players, Netflix had already identified and capitalized on a critical need in the market. The company's emphasis on convenience, affordability, and user experience provided customers with a desirable alternative to physical video stores that required time-consuming trips.
Further punctuating genius innovation during hard times is the fact that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings presented Blockbuster with an opportunity to potentially partner or buy Netflix for 50M in 2000. Reed was laughed out of the conference room. When Blockbuster Video attempted three years later to start an online DVD service, the ship had already sailed. Netflix is currently worth 175.40 Bn, who is laughing now?
Netflix also realized that it needed a more scalable business model with lower overheads. Moving away from a physical inventory of DVDs allowed them to achieve this along with greater flexibility in terms of their pricing structure and offerings. Additionally, technology advancements also facilitated this change, including faster internet speeds and improved device connectivity which made streaming feasible for most consumers. When we look at Netflix now, a creator of original content and the leading platform in its space it is hard to believe they started out as a niche mail order service.
Another inspiring case study is Groupon's co-founder and former CEO, Andrew Mason. He revolutionized the e-commerce industry by creating a platform that allows consumers to enjoy discounted deals on various products and services. Andrew championed fostering an environment conducive to creativity where employees could freely share ideas and take risks.
Additionally, he was not afraid to take unconventional approaches – for instance, his quirky disposition led him to write parody songs as a way of keeping the team motivated! Who does that? Despite his eventual departure from Groupon in 2013, Mason has continued to serve as a valuable voice in the tech industry as a mentor and investor while remaining true to his unorthodox yet effective leadership style.
The Link Between Creative Leadership and Resilience
Creative leadership is instrumental in building a culture of resilience because it encourages team members to view setbacks as opportunities for growth and development. It is truly a mindset shift from competing against each other to collaborating with others. By fostering a spirit of innovation and creativity, creative leaders help teams learn from their mistakes and develop new strategies for overcoming obstacles.
Team members are also more willing to share tips, and knowledge to help the entire team grow. Some of our clients have placed metrics to gauge collaboration, and to swiftly transition managers, and team members to other teams when there is an obvious misalignment. Soliciting input throughout is a must in order for a collaborative environment to work. Assuming someone does not want to work with other team members is very dismissive. The opportunity here is to engage, discuss, and learn what company initiatives your fellow human is passionate about.
Silos: An Innovation Killer
Silos or departmental barriers within a company, can severely impede innovation efforts by restricting communication and collaboration between teams. When departments operate independently with little interaction or knowledge sharing, opportunities for new ideas and perspectives are greatly limited. This insular mindset often leads to duplication of effort, unnecessary expenses, and missed chances for growth or improvement.
Additionally, silos can foster a culture of territorialism that discourages risk-taking and experimentation necessary for successful innovative ventures. Responses such as This is the way we’ve always done it or two teams working on the same project with no inter communication are examples of silos in a company.
By breaking down silos and promoting interdepartmental cooperation, companies can create an environment where diverse ideas are embraced, creativity thrives, and innovative solutions are more likely to emerge. Ultimately, the ability to adapt quickly is critical in today's business landscape; failing to address siloed thinking can hinder an organization's overall success.
In American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company,
Alan explains how silos almost killed the Ford. The former CEO broke down silos at Ford by implementing a comprehensive strategy that focused on collaboration, transparency, and open communication. He recognized that the company's previous culture was hindering progress and innovation, so he took action to shift the mindset of employees towards a more team-oriented approach.
Mulally introduced regular meetings where all departments had to report their status, share ideas, and work cohesively as a single unit. By doing this, he encouraged cross-functional teamwork which helped break down silos and created an environment of accountability.
Furthermore, he laid emphasis on utilizing data to make informed decisions instead of using personal opinions. This practice ensured that everyone was working towards common goals based on facts rather than individual perceptions or agendas. With his efforts, Mulally successfully transformed Ford into a collaborative organization that could overcome challenges together which resulted in significant growth and success for the company.
How To Break Up Internal Silos
Analyzing the company’s structure, culture, and workflows is a great start. Unwittingly, you might have a managerial structure that facilitates silos. Managers managing managers can lead to a “herd” type environment. A lack of transparency between departments can also create an “us” against “them” mentality which leads to silos.
Once you ‘ve taken an honest and critical look at your departments or total organization, strategize with leadership. Making sure there is consensus at the executive level is critically important. Incentives are another win to consider that can create a buzz of excitement in the work environment where shared goals are prioritized.
Again, this is another mindset, and organizational approach shift. You are driving business outcomes instead of individual functions. This will help break down silos by building a unified sense of purpose throughout the organization. Additionally, there are more opportunities for cross-departmental communication and collaboration through team-building exercises or regular meetings that can help identify areas of overlap or bottlenecks that can be addressed with mutual agreement.
The trick here is to let your workers decide what projects/initiatives they want to work on. When frontline managers are solely selecting team members there can be a danger of groupthink and favoritism. It is natural to want to partner with co-workers you feel comfortable with or like, but that kind of defeats the purpose of eliminating silos right? The idea is to dismantle the echo chambers, and breed innovation. Here are some additional tips on how to cultivate creative leadership.
Embracing Risk-Taking and Failure
To cultivate creativity, leaders need to create an environment that encourages risk-taking and is accepting of failure. This requires leaders to be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty and to give team members the freedom to experiment and take risks.
Encouraging Creativity in Your Team
Leaders can also encourage creativity by recognizing and rewarding innovative thinking and providing training and resources to help team members develop their skills. Sometimes great ideas are never heard because workers that are more independent or outside of the circle of influence might feel unwelcomed. Often, these workers are the employees with unique insights because they tend to be more original than the rest.
Building a Resilient Team Through Creative Collaboration
To build resilience through collaboration, teams must create an environment that fosters communication, trust, and respect. Encourage team members to share ideas, feedback, and suggestions openly and without fear of judgment. It's essential to understand and appreciate each team member's strengths and weaknesses to leverage them effectively.
Creating opportunities for team members to work together on projects outside their usual scope or on other teams is a great way to boost confidence which is indispensable when building resilience. Do not fall into the trap of creating busy work. When the proper evaluation of your internal processes was conducted, it revealed the areas that need innovation. Meaningful projects that will make the company stronger can help build a cohesive team that can tackle challenges with a variety of perspectives and expertise.
Fostering a Culture of Resilience and Innovation in Your Organization
To build a truly resilient and innovative organization, leaders must create a culture that supports both traits.
As shared previously, a resilient culture is characterized by a growth mindset, where failures and setbacks are viewed as opportunities for learning and growth. Leaders should encourage a culture of transparency, where team members can share their struggles openly and seek support when they need it. Recognize and celebrate instances of resilience within the team to reinforce this culture.
An important key is to analyze the setbacks, by identifying when things went south. When a thoughtful evaluation is executed, you can provide the team or individual worker with data that can be leveraged for successful future outcomes. It is all about learning, and applying, and executing with check-ins to fine tune efforts further.
But always remember that what is being transformed or tweaked is the culture. Old attitudes and ways of doing things that are counterintuitive should be retired. After an initiative is launched or a project is complete do not revert back to the status quo. Continue to move forward in fresh bold ways.
Encouraging Innovation and Creativity Across Your Organization
Leaders that recognize the importance of investing in technology, training, and research and development facilitate creative incubation where ideas grow and so do innovative products, and services. It is sad to see companies lose their ingenuity mojo by not taking small proactive steps consistently.
Sometimes the tools are in place, but not enough people are aware the tools exist. Tools to execute more effectively can have significant benefits for your team's resilience and overall success. But tools are just one piece of the puzzle.
Additionally, leaders must prioritize diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices, as diverse perspectives can lead to more innovative solutions. Finally, it is important for leaders to stay up-to-date on industry trends and emerging technologies like Netflix, and Groupon did. It made all the difference in the world.
Informed decisions about where to invest resources will help your organization stay ahead of the curve instead of trying to play catch up. By taking these steps, leaders can create an environment that fosters creativity and resilience leading to long-term success for your employees, and the organization.