The LeadershipZone for better leadership

Get into the leadershipzone – practical tools and ideas you can use to improve your effectiveness as a leader or manager

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LeadershipZone Fundamental No. 2: a place to innovate

We’re still looking at the fundamentals of what it takes to create a zone in which leaders can work effectively and the team can deliver.  You know the phrase: ‘in working order, on time, to budget’ – and of course, our stakeholders want to have their say too-

  • Leaders pray:  ‘please let it be successful with minimum hassle’;
  • Customers say:  ‘make it easy to get it working – usable/intuitive – and affordable’
  • The Board demands: ‘make us look good in the eyes of our investors’
  • Shareholders ask: ‘will it create higher dividends?’
  • Society asks: ‘is it safe, and will it meet our needs?’

We’re faced with the daily reality that the LeadershipZone is a complex place, where competing demands come at us from many directions.  Yesterday we looked at the need to focus; today we’re going in the opposite direction – by providing space for your team and your stakeholders to think widely?

We’ve touched on the need for diversity in whatever we do in the LeadershipZone.    ‘Space‘ means different things to people, depending on how we best interact, share ideas and chill out.  And as social beings, we need to network, exchange ideas, support each other and debate together – it’s a vital part of our make-up.

If you are going to use a meeting room for your problem solving, think about your purpose before you book the first space that comes available.  If your meeting’s purpose is task oriented, and you have a clear outcome that you’re working towards, pick a room with a lower ceiling.  This focuses peoples’ attention.  Shakespeare was, as ever, ahead of us on this one – Hamlet said:

“I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space”

wide open spaces inspire innovation and creativity

By contrast, the outdoors is a place to chill and get creative.  Personally I love walking and talking through ideas; many of my coaching clients like to have their sessions in the open air: as well as getting some fresh oxygen to the brain, the surroundings create stimulus.  If it’s blue-sky indoor thinking you’re after, find a room with a high ceiling – church halls and older buildings often have these.  Wider spaces stimulate creativity and innovation.

One final point of difference to watch out for is peoples’ attention spans: this varies from person to person.  Educationalists are just beginning to realise that younger people need shorter lessons, mixed with physical, 0utdoor activity to contrast with the focused learning.

Be aware of the length of your own ‘focus time’ first and foremost; and then observe your colleagues.  Younger, or less mature people, may have shorter attention spans, with higher demands for breaks.  Notice when people start to show signs of boredom, impatience or humour – this is often a signal for ‘time to refresh ourselves’.

While some of us may stay in the focused zone after one, or even two, hours, leadership can only work on the convoy principal: you need to take everyone with you – and that may mean adapting to their pace.