Going freestyle at work
When was the last time you went freestyle at work? I’m not talking about a more casual interpretation of the dress code or rearranging the agenda at that regular meeting to start at the finishing item, or sitting in a different seat to your usual position at said meeting.
This is about changing the status quo, bringing in the new and it is tough in most organisations, whatever our level. At frontline, middle and even senior manager level the resistance to stepping outside long-established structures and processes can be palpable. Though the stakes are pretty high where the formula more or less works most organisations are missing out on the powerful creative energy of their people.
Is it a function of fear that we can’t make changes? A lack of imagination? A lack of ‘permission?’ It may be any or all of these. What’s the reality? The people we lead have every right to say ‘I can’t’ if we continue to be stuck in the proverbial mud. Unless we set the example we can’t expect our people to assume permission and take the initiative.
More experimentation, more risk…
So here’s the thing…we need to reflect on what we are doing to encourage more experimentation: more taking of the considered risks that shift the game on, save a little time, improve standards; eschewing what we’ve always done so we’ll always do it in favour of creating something better.
In my view this more experimental approach requires some particular qualities:
- Putting ego and fear of reputational damage aside so that we allow for the possibility of falling on our face. In a leadership position this requires courage and a willingness to be vulnerable.
- Showing the way…if we don’t give things a go how can we expect our direct reports to?
- Extending trust by supporting people in taking considered risks and trying something different. This doesn’t mean anarchy but it does mean loosening the reins and backing others’ ideas.
- Staying close without smothering. There’s a big difference between providing support and guidance and micro-managing.
- Looking for learning. Experimentation inevitably means some stuff will fail. As leaders encouraging those involved to find out why and use the learning to go again will foster more expansive and fearless mind-sets.
So, if we’re in danger of being stuck where can we start?
- Try dumping the rigid agenda for your next meeting and brainstorming how the time should be used to greater effect going forward and for looking forward.
- Spend some time reflecting on the habits and routines you’ve developed and pick the one that’s most ‘on show’ for some attention and change.
- Canvass the views of people you’d never ask on some issue you’re currently tussling with and experiment with the answers you get, involving the people you consulted.
These may all be baby steps but steps in the right direction to opening up different thinking in your team and organisation.