Three Strategies Fuel Innovation Success

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Innovation, creativity and leadership are three of the most written-about topics in the business community. In fact a quick review of one online bookseller shows that they currently have over 150,000 titles on these subjects. Are they just buzzwords or do they play an important role in the success and sustainability of a business?

The answer is yes to both questions. While they are current buzzwords, they also must be part of a business’ strategic plan in order for that company to be successful and enjoy sustainability.

Innovation and creativity are crucial components of a contemporary leader’s unspoken responsibilities. Without them you cannot solve problems, get ahead of the game, handle emergency communication catastrophes and stay ahead of the competition. One could even argue that without innovation, your business will not be viable in five years.

Engaged Employees are the Fertile Foundation for Innovation: Innovation has many definitions, some too brief and not allowing for the expansiveness of the concept. One of the best definitions of innovation comes from a response Steve Jobs, co-founder and past CEO of Apple, gave to a reporter when asked about the market research for their products. He said: “People don’t know what they want until you show them.” This is a perfect example of innovation – filling a need before anyone else knows there is a demand, creating a demand for something unheard of or finding a solution in advance of a problem.

It takes a connected workforce community, an engaged team, to innovate. It is not just the responsibility of the leader. It takes wise leaders who know their strengths and weaknesses if they are the ones that should be at the forefront of innovation. If it is not a strong suit then delegate the management or moderating of the innovation program to someone who can run with the ball and score big or hire someone from the outside. In fact, the act of innovation should be considered a game and there should be rules of engagement to meet with success and complete buy-in.

Innovation 101: There are three keys to innovation but before getting started it is important to note that many members of the workforce will be good innovators if given the chance — but not necessarily in all categories of innovation. You may be looking for a solution to something some will not be interested in or care about. Others may not wish to be embarrassed if their idea is not chosen. For them, create a way to participate without the embarrassment factor such as an idea or innovation drop box in lunch rooms or on internal social communications systems. The door should be thrown wide open with an invitation for all to participate until you find out who are the best innovators and will play the game according to the rules.

Speaking of rules, it is important to set the rules of engagement first. This will vary depending upon your group and subject but the basic tenants are:

  • You are beginning with a blank canvas and no idea is off the table
  • Every idea is accepted without judgment
  • Everyone is encouraged to advance ideas
  • No one wins and no one loses
  • Not all ideas will be used
  • Everyone agrees to buy-in when the session is over – this is when themoderator has absolute control and bring an end to the rules of engagement for this session

If anyone cannot abide by these rules then they should excuse themselves, or be excused from participating. Let the games begin.

Innovation begins with tension. There will be all kinds of interaction between participants and each will have their own ideas on how to solve a problem, create a new product or deal with an emergency. There should be a healthy tension within the group to keep the flow of creativity and idea generation expanding. Ideas should be posted on the walls or on a big screen by someone assigned to make the new ideas visually accessible to all. It is in the process of the idea generation that new ideas will flow causing an explosion of new ideas built upon the existing. At this stage everyone should feel like they are winning the game but be reminded that others will also be evaluating the ideas for feasibility.

Innovation must include flexibility. All participants must understand that there is an ebb and flow to innovating and creativity. Some may not say a word or have an idea throughout the entire process and come up with something as they are walking out the door. Others may have dozens of ideas from the moment you begin till the very end. All however must be flexible enough to allow every idea to come to the floor without question, derision or comment. It is up to the moderator to keep the ideas flowing and the emotions in check.

Innovation draws conclusions through collaboration. Sometimes in such sessions someone will hit a home run and everyone will instantly recognize the idea as a big win. Other times, you will see two or three individual camps forming around different ideas they wish to see succeed. It is key for the moderator to get a firm grip of the session at this point so collaboration occurs not conflict. The group should become cohesive around one or two really good ideas that can then be reviewed by an appropriate oversight team from production, communications or IT etc.

At this point, the group should be thanked for their participation in your group creativity and innovation session and asked if they would like to be included in another one in the future. A nice touch would be to celebrate their innovation with an unexpected treat such as fresh cookies and coffee or iced tea. It is through recognition and celebration that they will value innovation and be more aware of the opportunities to do so.

The steps are simple, get started and stay in control. Guarantee your success and sustainability by always being ahead of the consumers’ wants and competitors’ ideas.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

Room Dynamics Fuel Efficiency

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Perhaps you already understand what room dynamics has to do with productivity. But do you realize what it can do for your efficiency, your calendar – your precious time?

A strategic room dynamics roadmap is all about creating a workplace environment that maximizes your productivity, efficiency and effectiveness. If your work space is organized and you can find everything at a moment’s notice, you can get everything done faster, your responses will be timelier and you will automatically be more productive.

Strategic room dynamics is as much about maximizing your time as being organized or having everything within reach.

Fuel Efficiency and Importance: How many times have you spent an entire day putting out fires, doing the urgent not the important? Yes, some days you just can’t stop the barrage of things thrown at you but when you have a strategic room dynamics plan in place, you will be able to handle the interruptions with ease. You’ll be able to discern very quickly what is urgent, demanding your immediate attention versus what can wait while you provide your undivided attention to something more important.

In a previous article, Room Dynamics Fuel Success, a strategic plan laid out the basics on what to do to your workspace to be more productive and successful. Some of those steps discussed were the workspace layout, organization and removal of energy drainers from the work space. By maximizing these areas, you become more productive. To increase efficiency, as well as your productivity, you need to incorporate the following three items into your strategic plan.

Eliminate energy-drainers from your daily schedule. Determine what is preventing you from completing the important things on time. Are there time-devouring items on your calendar you can eliminate?

Do social media and electronic communications take a huge bite of time out of your schedule? Are all of those necessary interruptions nibbling away at your time or can you delegate a specific amount of time before lunch and before the end of the day to check those communications?

If there is specific information you need, set up a special sound code for your VIP messages so you can retrieve them immediately yet leave the less important for later. It’s your time that you are losing and your efficiency that is suffering. Eliminate what you can and control what remains.

Create a high-five priorities list. This list should be created before you even set foot in your workspace on Monday and should contain only the highest priority items. Routine daily tasks should not go on this list.

Start with your most important items; the more important the item, the higher it is placed on the list. When you are ready to tackle these, ALWAYS begin with item number one. If it is a long-term project, still begin with it first then move on to the next item(s) on your list. This will dramatically improve your focus.

Do not allow frivolous interruptions. Only you know what is important, what can wait or is so urgent that it should be allowed to step in front of something else. The only way to make an intelligent decision about whether you should divert your attention from what you are working on is to evaluate the two items side by side. Then you can assess if the urgent item is truly urgent or is someone else simply bringing you their problem to solve.

Establish office chat times. Plan specific time for interruptions so that others on your team know ahead of time when they can connect with you and get your 100 percent undivided attention. They will soon recognize that 100 percent of your undivided attention is much better than your divided attention while you are still trying to process what you were concentrating on when they interrupted you. You will have to determine exactly what works for your type of workplace and business but a working strategic plan that everyone is aware of will minimize your downtime while increasing everyone’s productivity and efficiency.

Creating strategic room dynamics enhances not only your productivity but also your efficiency. It puts you in control of your space and allows you to maximize the use of your precious time thus improving your focus and increasing efficiency.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

Room Dynamics Fuel Success

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Although it was a beautiful sunny spring day outside, there was a dark cloud hanging over attorney Steve and his office reflected it. Steve was the managing partner of a multiple-city law firm spread across the state.

He complained about how unfocused, distracted and disorganized he felt. He was worried that the firm wasn’t going to grow and make money on his watch.

Steve was also concerned that he was not as efficient and productive as he should be which left him feeling ineffective as the firm leader. He knew one of the keys to building the firm and increasing business had to do with relationships – they needed to improve relationships to expand existing business and create new relationships to get new business. He complained, “It’s as if things are standing in my way preventing me from accomplishing my goals and challenging my abilities.”

Remove Energy Drainers to Fuel Focus: A cursory glance around Steve’s office easily shed light on the things standing in his way. Displayed on the lengthy window sill of his corner office were at least two dozen framed photographs of family members, kids, fishing buddies with the “big” catch, clients, and more. That’s a lot of eyes watching him perform and events distracting him. But that was just the beginning.

  • Stacks of files were on the desk, credenza and floor.
  • His CPU was placed in the corner of the L-shaped desk so he would bump into it every time he moved from his computer screen to another area of his desk where he would write and take notes.
  • He had poor hearing in his left ear but his phone was still placed on that side so every time he answered it he had to reach across his body and the computer screen and keyboard.
  • A book shelf was filled with books he hadn’t used in years that could easily reside in the firm’s library.
  • Several pieces of art gifted from key clients leaned up against a wall because he was unsure of where to hang them.

Each was a significant energy drainer and disrupted his focus. It was no wonder he felt unproductive, couldn’t focus and was always distracted. Either he couldn’t find it; it wasn’t arranged for efficiency or was distracting so his flow of focus was always broken.

Harness Focus to Ignite Productivity: Fortunately Steve’s office had one thing going for it: the placement of his desk and chair. It was on the far side of the room facing the door, which is the most powerful and effective location. Therefore, when sitting in his chair, no matter which area of his desk he was working on, he always had a complete view of the door, and was always aware of people coming and going. His subconscious mind was never distracted and operating in the flight or fight mode.

With his desk and chair already placed for maximum leadership power, focus and productivity, it was easier to bring the remainder of his office into alignment with his objectives using these corrections:

  • All but three of the personal pictures on the windowsill were eliminated leaving one with his family, one with his best friends and one with a major client – this removed a lot of the distractions and energized what was important in his life.
  • Energy-drainers, clutter and files were either organized in upright files on his desk for current cases or on the credenza for longer term cases – other items were filed, tossed if possible or moved to the firm’s archives. This lack of organization consumed a lot of his time –time he could spent cultivating new clients or nurturing existing clients.
  • Misplaced equipment like the CPU and his phone were relocated to improve efficiency and increase productivity.
  • The bookshelf was totally removed from his office and replaced with a small table and chairs for a more casual meeting area with clients and improved client rapport – and adding a live plant provided living energy in the room.
  • The pictures were appropriately hung throughout the office; the ones behind the desk of his largest client’s wetlands artwork placed emphasis on existing clients. The artist rendering of Steve arguing a case in front of the Federal Court was placed on the wall facing him to remind him of past successes and encourage future wins.

The Result: Changing the room dynamics provided Steve an environment where he became more focused improving his concentration. He found he had more time to connect with not only the other partners in the firm but existing and new clients making him more efficient and effective.

At the firm’s annual retreat four months later, Steve was recognized for outstanding achievement and honored by the other partners because of his leadership and the fact that he personally brought in more business in those four months than the entire previous year.

By applying the same principles to your office, you too, can dramatically improve your flow of focus fueling efficiency, effectiveness and productivity.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

Leaders’ Actions Fuel Results

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

The old adage “actions speak louder than words” is as relevant today as when first spoken. For leaders, their actions and behaviors reveal their true core values and beliefs. Their actions speak volumes no matter what their words say.

When you strip away characteristics, traits and attributes, you find true leadership behaviors and actions which directly impact workforce engagement, productivity and profitability.

Leaders need to be conscious role models for being engaged, empowered and motivated. If they are not emotionally and intellectually connected and cannot visibly display these actions and behaviors, how can they expect their workforce to exhibit higher levels of engagement, productivity and performance?

It is important for leaders to understand that they need to always bring their “A game” behaviors, ideas and actions to work every day in order to deliver the results crucial to productivity and profitability. It’s a leader’s actions and behaviors that create the most efficient and productive workplace environment which in turn empowers the workforce.

Foster Role Modeling to Improve Engagement: Self-awareness of the importance of role modeling for a leader should rank near the top of one’s “to-do” list. It is the leader who carries the vision for the future of the company and it is the leader who must impart that vision into the hearts of the workforce. It takes awareness, getting in control and modeling to make that happen.

Self-awareness! This is the first step in transitioning from a “words” to an “action” oriented leadership style. This can be quite a challenge because you need to become consciously aware of the need to model your behaviors and beliefs. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty if that’s what it takes. Demonstrate how you expect your employees to act. Show up early. Be present during meetings. Make eye contact with everyone around you. Be engaged with your employees. Think about the actions you want your potential leaders to make – and model those behaviors daily.

Re-invent being in control of self. Once you have accomplished the self-awareness and modeling strategy you will be well on your way to being in control of yourself and engaging your workforce. The more negative actions and behaviors you eliminate from your life, the faster your positive new thoughts, ideas and actions will enter your subconscious, making it easier to commit, communicate and innovate.

Stay Focused. Clear the mental negative clutter out of your mind so you can remain focused on consistent modeling and behavior for your team and upcoming leaders. The result of this process is self-empowerment for you and engagement for your employees.

Knowing that you are responsible – through your actions not just your words – for what you have created in yourself and your workforce is a huge revelation. At the same time, through your actions which are being followed by others, you are creating your future, the future of your workforce and the sustainability of your company.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

Use Technology to Influence Millennial Workforce Productivity

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

With 105 million strong in the US, the Millennial generation is now larger than the number of Baby Boomers and Generation X combined. Their presence is felt in the workplace and is creating great diversity in age, work ethic, interpersonal social and communication skills.

Instead of silver spoons in their hands, they were born with computers in their laps and cell phones and iPods attached to their ears. They are the first totally digitized generation and are truly hooked on electronic services. According to Forrester Research, 91 percent of Millennials spend an average of 25 hours per week online accessing it through smartphones, laptops and tablets. In fact, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti says Millennials are obsessed with their mobile devices, even sleeping with them.

The question then becomes: what impact does this have on a multi-generational workforce? And how do you apply this knowledge to increase the performance and productivity of workplace Millennials while maintaining or increasing the productivity of the Boomers and Generation X?

What Influences the Millennial? It is important to understand the shift in what motivates this generation of employees versus previous ones. Millennials want to be appreciated and acknowledged. They prefer working for a company where the corporate culture provides meaningful work, flexibility and gives back to the community. They also want to know what the impact of the work they perform will be in the way of a contribution to the company.

Millennials will know a great deal about your company before ever setting foot in your office because they will have thoroughly researched you online, found compliments and complaints about you and checked with their social media connections for input. Approval and a positive reference or a negative comment from online social media connections will make them more interested in becoming part of your workforce – or not.

Use Technology to Influence a Digital Workforce: This major shift in the composition and needs of the new workforce requires a new set of skills, including communications that engage them so they want their performance and productivity to be part of their identity while meeting your expectations.

Set expectations on day one. To create company loyalty and a desire to meet or exceed productivity expectations, set expectations both in the interview process and on their first day as part of the workforce. Let them know exactly what is expected of them, what they are responsible for and how that fits in to the overall company plan. They will not settle for doing something they do not like or are not interested in or passionate about. The clearer you can make your company expectations, the better the performance and productivity of your workforce Millennial.

This practice should not be limited just to this generation. It is simply a good business practice and should be applied to the entire workforce. How can you expect them to perform well if they do not know what is expected of them and why?

Ask them to participate in planning. Millennials not only want to know the what, but the why. Why is the job they are expected to do important to the overall wellbeing of the company? Why will what they do make a difference and how does it fit into the overall plan?

Because of this generation’s need to be listened to and heard, involve them in the planning process. Use brief in-person meetings, think tanks; or online chats and in-house Skype calls or Google hangouts to communicate. Use the technology they love to get them engaged and involved. Their participation and performance will improve and so will your profits.

Emotionally connect through technology. Speaking their language leads to loyalty and trust. While older members of your workforce may still prefer face-to-face meetings, the Millennials actually prefer digitized communications. They are looking for emotional connection, which to them leads to trust. They respond to visual and audible communications. Consider having a company Facebook page accessible only by your in-house workforce; use texting and social media platforms that can be set up in a secure way to maintain company privacy.

And don’t forget the Boomers and Generation X – they are more digitally savvy that you might think. They may not love it but they realize technology has long swept past television, radio and bulletin boards as being the only methods of communication.

The influence of technology and digital communications is here to stay. Have you prepared for the new digitized workforce? Starting today will help you catch up to a fast- paced ever-changing generation of employees.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.