It’s a universal truth: people want to be important. As leaders, we need to find ways to harness the enthusiasm of our teams for achieving group goals and accelerate the achievement of company objectives. One of the most effective strategies for doing this is by supporting your team’s thought leadership growth. Some people may think “thought leadership” is all about corporate blogging or publishing industry reports and whitepapers, but the concept of thought leadership goes much further than that. It's about creating a culture in which you support your team's desire to think and act independently.
As more and more workers seek autonomy and personal fulfillment, it becomes vitally important for you to facilitate thought leadership that strengthens the culture of innovation in your organization. One of the biggest challenges that organizations face today is understanding how to cultivate an organizational culture that supports innovation. Innovation that sparks growth is more than just a pipeline of new ideas and products; it’s a culture that values creativity, ambition, and change.
Instead of seeing innovation as a goal, leaders must begin looking at innovation as a constant part of the organization’s DNA. This begins in the workforce, which you lead by using your strategic communications expertise. Not to mention, employees are empowered with access to more tools and knowledge than ever before. They have options, and they’re looking for a workplace that equips them to make things happen. They want to be respected, to feel valued, and to use their strengths for the good of the team. When they do, it’s good business (and also makes for a happy workforce.)
Today, we’ll explore four ways to make promoting thought leadership in your workplace a reality.
- Create a positive work environment.
Management in any organization has a vital role to play in promoting innovation. Their influence on a company’s culture has a big impact on the way people think and act. The secret to unleashing creativity and innovation is to give people the space and confidence to think for themselves and freely challenge the status quo. This means creating and encouraging an environment where mistakes are ok as long as they are made in good faith.
For this to happen, management must make a conscious effort to be more transparent and open to innovation. More importantly, it is the responsibility of management to create an environment where diverse perspectives are respected and leveraged in order to spark innovative ideas. Creating this kind of culture means that employees must feel comfortable enough with their managers or leaders so they can freely speak up about their varying opinions.
- Schedule team sessions for idea sharing.
Team meetings and strategy sessions can be great ways to generate ideas, but the problem is that often only ideas that support current goals and priorities get recognized. What if you wanted to build a culture of innovation? It is important to provide a platform for everyone to voice their opinions and for everyone to contribute their ideas. One of the main ways to do that is to hold regular sessions where you generate and share those ideas. Regular brainstorming sessions can help the team members think better, innovate better, and boost morale. It’s also a great way for people outside your immediate team to be involved.
Team sessions do not need to be complicated or expensive. They can be simple events that include a mix of individual and group activities that allow for sharing of ideas, brainstorming, and offering input on projects. For teams that are new to brainstorming (especially if most of your team members have formulaic thinking), start by scheduling regular formal brainstorming sessions. Make sure everyone is invited to join in so that even the most introverted group members feel comfortable enough to speak up. Be sure to follow up on all the ideas generated at these sessions—even the seemingly off-the-wall suggestions could yield unexpected results.
- Find the right talent.
You are probably thinking, “of course I know my team members are smart and have a lot to offer. They wouldn’t be working here if they didn’t, right?” As a leader, you may feel like you already know who those people are. But have you really taken the time to determine if they are leaders in your company? Have you pinpointed exactly who the thought leaders are on your team? Just because they’re in a managerial role or have been with your company for a long time doesn’t mean they should automatically be thought of as “leaders.”
Your future leaders, who may not be in managerial roles, are presenting themselves to you on a daily basis. Many people believe that leadership can only be recognized when a person is in a formal leadership position. The belief is that the formal leader was always destined to lead, and it is now his or her time. This isn’t true. The leadership qualities and traits need to be cultivated before they can be developed. It is up to you to recognize them and know the leadership qualities that make them strong.
- Give credit to your team.
It’s no secret that motivating employees is hard. We have all been there: some days are good, others... not so good. A vital part of effective team management is recognizing and giving due credit to your team's most valuable contributors. When those who are outshining their colleagues are not appropriately honored, this leads to disenchantment, disengagement, and diffusion of purpose. Can you imagine how miserable it would be to work for someone who never, ever, acknowledged the efforts of your team? Sadly, that is the norm in many organizations today.
Remember that you build people as much as you build products. Great managers appreciate the efforts of their teams and give credit where credit is due. Whether through lavish praise or discreet encouragement, showing your team that you know what they are doing right is essential. When your team is motivated, they are more productive and creative and it increases the bottom line. Maintaining motivation is key for a happy and balanced workplace!