The following is a recent article I wrote with my friend and colleague, Yosef Meged
Supportive parenting study provides insight for a turbulent business environment
In a recent article in The Atlantic entitled, How Supportive Parenting Protects the Brain, author, Olga Khazan reports on research showing that children with mothers who smile and offer frequent support during early childhood development were healthier physically, emotionally and cognitively than children with mothers who were focusing on their own stress, insecurity or distraction during their child’s formative years.
In a workplace, business leaders might take a lesson from Khazan’s article. As leader, cue yourself to focus on the development of others in order to help them engage and your company to thrive.
Supportive leadership and the care and nurturing of new ideas.
Supportive leadership comes from your deep seated understanding that your team is the driver of all your innovation; they are literally the future of your business.
Even with the promise of revitalization and transformation, a newborn idea is often so fragile and helpless that it never survives its first formative moments. It’s no wonder; creativity is intuitive and messy. Rarely does a powerful new idea come out as a perfectly formed solution. In fact, when asked about his creative process, Albert Einstein responded, “How do I work? I grope.”
Yet, how many times have you been in meetings when a self-proclaimed expert mows down every new idea with a reason why it can’t be done? And while good critical thinking is certainly valuable, it’s best applied after an idea has had a chance to breathe and mature.
In other words, you aren’t the smartest person in the room just because you know why something won’t work. The smartest person sees if there is a workable element in an idea and helps the team bring that forward so the idea can work.
Two easy tools for raising healthy and productive ideas
Tool One: When you hear any new idea, say: What I like about your idea is…
Do this before you mention any of the idea‘s weaknesses—even if the idea doesn’t seem to be immediately workable. Look for value in the purpose or intention of the idea. Or focus on a aspect of the idea that intrigues you. Or consider how the idea might change the way you look at the issue.
Here are three reasons why dismissing a new idea without first considering its merits is so limiting:
- Your initial reaction might be fraught with faulty assumptions, a narrow frame of reference or incomplete knowledge of the situation. By looking for what’s right about an idea, you are opening yourself to something new.
- Fundamental to creativity is forging new connections between previously unrelated ideas. By looking for what’s right with an idea, you might make connections that lead your team in unimagined directions.
- Who wants to offer new ideas to Dr. No? People want to work with those who help them be successful. They look for visionaries, not obstructionists and know-it-alls.
Tool Two: After you’ve said what you like about an idea, then turn any remaining issues into problems to solve.
For example, the next time you’re tempted to say something like, we can’t do that because we can’t fund it, turn that issue into a problem to solve:
Ask, instead, how might we fund this initiative?
But don’t stop there, keep the discussion moving by asking the same question in a variety of ways and allow time for solutions to bubble up:
- In what ways might we reduce the cost?
- How might we make it affordable?
- How can we find the money to pay for it?
- What might be ways we get it for free?
- How can we find a partner to pay for it?
Here’s what happens when you pose your issues with an idea as problems to solve.
- You encourage discussion among your team. Maybe you will discover that while you might be missing a key piece of information or insight to make the idea workable, someone else on your team might have that key.
- You find your questions lead to breakthrough thinking your team would never have explored otherwise.
Of course, after all this, you and your team still might determine that the idea wasn’t workable, but, as a supportive leader, you will have shown respect for the person who offered it, and left open an inviting door for future ideas. This is key to a healthy, innovative workplace.
In the end, supportive leadership, like supportive parenting, requires a shift from a “me focus” to a “you focus” with colleagues and their ideas. And much like a proud parent, you’ll be able to enjoy your colleagues’ achievements and the thriving growth of your business.
Dan Greenberger is a creativity and innovation facilitator and trainer who lives in Highland Park, IL. You can contact Dan at email@example.com.
Yosef Meged is a business and personal coach working with individuals, families and businesses. Yosef lives in the United States and Israel. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.