Introducing realism without stifling enthusiasm and creativity



Square peg in a round hole

We have all been there. A new person joins the team or organisation you are in and is asking lots of questions, suggesting ideas and giving inputs you feel you have all heard before or tried before. You think – ‘here we go again down the same path’.

When faced with a new person sharing ideas, our natural reaction is to defend our actions up to that point, we do this by trying to ‘assimilate and normalise’ new input. We are the ones who have lived through many experiences in this team, we know how it works, we understand the political climate and know the ways in which to get things done – someone new cannot have the experiences we have had and can’t know how to get things done in our environment.

When I say assimilate and normalise, what I mean is that we impart our experiences and knowledge to the newcomer, along with our own baggage of why certain things will or won’t work, what has been tried before and failed. Over time this person becomes assimilated into the way things are done because we have unconsciously given them the lens through which they should now view things. Their inputs become normalised to what is standard and accepted from the team, and the result is that enthusiasm and spark, that creative idea that could be the dawn of something new and exciting, gets lost!

In leading teams it is key that we manage this dynamic. Leaders must harness that spark, foster that enthusiasm, and provide the space for creativity and testing new ideas. The successful leader encourages the different approaches that individuals bring. They will act as a coach, posing pertinent questions that make people think that little bit harder, enabling team members to understand the external environment, inner politics or history for themselves while utilising the value that experience that existing team members bring.

Allowing people to develop their own lens of viewing reality and not have one pushed on them, is important in making sure we get the full potential of what we hired the people in our team for. Harnessing that enthusiasm and creativity is what keeps a team dynamic; allowing them to solve a yet unsolved problem, fill a customer need, create the next big thing!

Some thoughts for leaders

  • Keep asking thought provoking questions – not that leaders know all the answers, mostly they don’t, but questions are a way to level a playing field and pull on everyone’s experience
  • Cut people slack – give people the space to develop out a wacky thought or idea. Don’t crush it just because it’s not yet well developed with a clear ROI. Allow time for them to test their thinking and hypothesis.
  • Pilot ideas – some potentially great ideas may need to be tested in the field. Allow people to take a calculated or constrained risk that will not break the business but will allow valuable information to be gathered.
  • Learn to see the specific strength each person brings and recognise that by showing the positive impact that strength has on the team and the results of the work you do.

Enthusiasm and creativity is the essence of a new thought or idea that could be revolutionary. It needs to be nurtured in order to avoid a jaded and stifled future where we can’t see a new way to do something, or create a new something to do.

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  1. Marcy Alstott Reply January 11, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    This is an essential part of transformation management and you’ve done an excellent job describing what a leader needs to pay attention to. One lean six sigma technique is to ask why 5 times. Don’t assume that the first layer tells the story. The other side of this situation is when a leader is new to an organization. Perhaps that can be covered in another Blog! When coming into a new org or process situation it is easy to take things on face value. Again, the same techniques should be used. I love your last sentences. Keep the creativity alive!

    • admin Reply January 11, 2013 at 9:00 pm

      Thanks for your comments Marcy, yes the questioning can reveal a multitude of information and spur on new levels of creativity.

  2. admin Reply January 14, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Thanks for your supportive comment

  3. admin Reply February 5, 2013 at 2:40 pm

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  4. admin Reply April 19, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    thanks for the feedback, glad you found it of value