Three Ways to Sneak Creativity… Where It’s Not Wanted

Three Ways to Sneak Creativity… Where It’s Not Wanted

Business December 03, 2014 / By Justin Brady
Three Ways to Sneak Creativity… Where It’s Not Wanted

You've put together a high-energy creative team but company leadership is squashing their creative process altogether. What do you do? Can you do anything?

You’ve done the work, developed a great team and aren’t short of creative ideas and explosive energy. It took you years to organically grow to this point. The team you manage has a passion to exceed expectations and sets the bar higher and higher every day, every week and every year, but there’s one problem: Your boss is a stick in the mud. It’s evident he doesn’t want creativity or the culture it brings, he just wants the results of it. He wants the Dyson without the 5,127 failures

This month, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Minnesota AMA and during Q/A, I got an interesting question. A woman from the group asked what could be done when she had all the components in place, had a creative team, but management maintained their negative impact, discouraging the culture she had worked so hard to build up.

I have some good news and some bad news. First, the bad news. Unless leadership changes, this situation isn't likely to get better. It will continue to be an uphill battle... on ice... in a blizzard. But there is good news. There are some interesting, tested strategies I have observed through my years working with brilliant individuals. Their strategies can minimize the negative impact on your team, almost sneaking creativity where it's not wanted. The names have been changed to protect the creative.

1. Mark made it his bosses idea.

Mark was clever in his approach. Over time he simply fed his boss information to craft his bosses perspective. If there is one thing bad bosses like, it’s credit for good ideas. The challenge isn't about getting a boss to like an idea. The challenge is to get him or her to form the idea by his or herself. This sounds challenging but it doesn’t have to be impossible. 

I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as an original idea. All our ideas and perspectives are the result of who we interact with, the lessons we learn and the things we read. Therefore, keep feeding this to your boss when the time is right. It doesn’t have to be obvious, just continue sharing resources, allowing him or her to come to a conclusion on their own. Gift interesting books, email articles and keep magazine snippets. Keep in mind it may take them almost 1 year to latch on to the concept. 

2. Jeff shielded his team.

One of the smartest ways I’ve seen to deal with this challenge I observed from a sales VP of a hotel ownership company. HIs name is Jeff and he managed to build an incredible team that achieved amazing results despite toxic leadership. What he did was simple. He shielded and protected his team. 

When hired, he told his superiors that they would, under no circumstances, contact his team. Any praise, any correction and feedback whatsoever would go through him and only him. If the team performed poorly, he asked to be fired before they were allowed to be contacted. Simple. His approach worked, the team was healthy and powerful, until Jeff was recruited away. The moment he left, the entire team was gone in 6 months either leaving voluntarily or being kicked out the door. The shield was gone. 

Jeff’s approach requires you to be the sacrifice if things go wrong, but it may be the only way to protect your team and your results.

3. Matt asked for forgiveness, not permission.

I've seen some leaders operate with great success even in rigid organizations by simply throwing the rule book out completely. One particular gentlemen, Matt, simply did what was best for his customers and employees, almost completely disregarding "the policy." Before the corporate rulers figured out what was going on, they were already benefiting from his results. In effect, Matt showed them the solution before they knew about the 5,127 failures. Faced with Matt's division growing at unprecedented rates, his rulers were given one of two options: Promote Matt and continue the successful pattern or fire Matt and lose the progress. They chose to promote.

Ok, look. Creativity shouldn't be something you have to sneak at all. When dealing with a hesitant or fearful boss the best approach is always to change attitudes, hearts and minds. When that isn't an option and finding an organization that better fits you also isn't an option, it may be necessary to turn to Matt, Mark and Jeff and get ready to join their ranks of sacrificial leadership. Your team depends on you.

Justin Brady likes to write, speak and work with loving leaders on how to organically cultivate creativity in their organization. Find him on Twitter @justinbrady. This piece and others like it can be found on his blog.

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