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Rock the damn boat - how to unleash innovation in your team

Fear based autocratic leadership does nothing but foster mediocrity and ensure slow to no growth as a result. Scared, debilitated employees afraid to raise their hands, perform out of their skin and try new things do not generate ideas, they don’t exceed expectations and they aren’t motivated to support your goals. Worse yet, they are often completely disconnected and don’t even care about the fertility and continuation of your business. They will do ‘the bare minimum’ because... why do more?

Usually, this in turn makes your employees look useless, and your ability to trust is all but gone! A terrible cycle that needs to be broken, and you’re the one to do it!

Now I am not talking about you waving around a stick and grunting at people. Autocratic leadership can come down to not listening to others ideas, not creating a safe environment for people to ask questions, not trusting people with responsibility, and not allowing humans to behave like humans. I will put my hand up - autocratic is my zone. I harbour tasks, I find it hard to trust anyone, and I know I will do a better job. BUT, this attitude, this way of leading does not grow my business, and it limits me to only my potential, only my way of thinking, and that limits my growth.

It seems ridiculous to hold people back and obvious to empower them - but it’s not actually as easy as it sounds. Leaders usually rise to the top by being tenacious, self driven achievers and are often inside their own heads with the belief that only they know best, that the way things have been done are the way they should be done, and that challenging concepts wastes more time than it saves. This type of thinking is stifling, and cripples growth.

If the digital age has taught everyone in business anything, if you don’t move with the times and continue to innovate, your business can become a relic in under two years. If you don’t ‘rock the boat’ and unearth better ways, better things, better people and services, you should start planning your exit strategy now. And its leadership styles that need to be shaken up!

So, how do you get past yourself and let go in order to foster excellence and innovation?

Step one: Start delegating higher levels of responsibility and let your people ‘have a go’. I know this is easier said than done, but in order to develop trust, you need to trust. Treat it as an experiment. Delegate a project, and lock yourself in a room where you cannot interfere. Just try it. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Step two: Ask people for their ideas. Start paving the way for conversations to happen. You can do this in a safe environment, say on a strategy day where people can make suggestions and they are workshopped. You’ll be impressed purely by the engagement this creates. People love to be heard and if it’s genuine, you might start hearing things that could really impact your business.

Step three: Challenge yourself to change some of your habits. Pick one area / behaviour at a time that could be stifling your growth and work on it. It might be something as small as sending too many emails, and not having enough face to face conversations, or harbouring a particular task that you could benefit from passing on.

These three steps will set you on the right path to cure your businesses of mediocrity and start building a collaborative and innovative support team to propel your business. The impact of a good or bad leader is equally significant and can truly mean the difference between profit and loss.

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