Rockstars don’t play it safe, but when it comes to encouraging their bandmates to get creative, it’s all about fostering a safe environment. If you want your employees to be innovative, you’ll need to learn how to do the same.
Imagine that you’ve got a brilliant idea that could make your company millions of dollars. You bring it to the higher-ups and are met with one of these reactions:
Do any of these scenarios make you eager to bring new ideas to the table? Do any of them encourage creativity, ingenuity, or out-of-the-box thinking? If you said yes, you’re braver than me! Most of us wouldn’t see those reactions as a challenge, but rather as a great reason to never speak up again.
If you want to inspire your team to get creative, you’ll need to learn how to create a culture of collaboration and creativity.
In order for your team to feel comfortable speaking their mind and contributing fully to your organization, you must foster an environment of psychological safety. Only then, will your employees be willing to open up and truly discuss what’s on their minds.
Are you available to speak with your employees throughout the workday or have you created an “I don’t want to hear it” relationship with your direct reports? When your team members come to you, do you have time to listen to them and their ideas, or would they describe you as “hoping for a distraction?” Finally, when you do sit down to chat with your team, are you actually listening to what they have to say and then taking it into consideration? Today's band members not only want a band leader that listens but one that actually understands and values what they have to say.
All of these are necessary to create psychological safety for your employees, as are multiple ways to communicate. Maybe they’re more comfortable coming to you in person, or perhaps they’d rather have their ideas considered in an email. Let them know the different ways you can be reached. This is even more important while many are still working remotely.
Anyone who has succeeded in life has also failed. The bands that grace stadium stages today, once failed to get the record contract or lost the Battle of the Bands competition. Failure is part of winning and mistakes are our best teachers. Fail Fast, Fail Often, and Fail Forward. Michael Jorden may make the most goals in a game but he also misses the most too.
Instead of penalizing your employees for attempts that didn’t work out as planned, celebrate the fact that they tried and debrief with them to find out what worked, what didn’t work, and what they learned from this attempt.
No one is free to create or innovate with the threat of punishment or unemployment hanging over their heads.
Steven Tyler from the legendary band Aerosmith has a once-a-month “Dare To Suck” band meeting. He challenges himself and all the band members to bring their worst ideas to the table. He said some of their best ideas and music has come from the ‘Dare To Suck” creative jam sessions.
Sometimes, it can be scary to appear vulnerable in a management position. But psychological safety starts at the top and trickles down. If you expect your employees to open up and voice their concerns and their ideas, you need to be willing to do so as well. If you’ve got ideas of how to improve efficiency, launch a new product, or work together as a team, you need to express them to your team and be open to the feedback (whether positive or negative) that you receive.
When employees see that not all are winning ideas, your ideas were heard and considered, they’re more likely to share their own.
By keeping an open door, celebrating mistakes, and showcasing your own vulnerability, you can create a rockstar team operating in a psychologically safe environment. These employees will be happier, more innovative, and harder workers because of the culture you’re fostering. Plus, they will be less likely to quit the band. Especially in these times of labor and talent shortages.
On stage as a keynote speaker in great cities like Las Vegas, Orlando, Nashville, and all over America, I talk about developing your Rock Star Mind-Set. How Rock Stars think differently and perform at a higher level every day. Creating a safe and comfortable environment is just solid rock star leadership. The more engagement you can pull from your teams the sooner innovation and creativity will begin to flow.