Leadership for Innovation



Leadership for Innovation Article


How would it look if your day-to-day leadership culture opened up the space to create innovation opportunities on a regular basis?

Some organisations have special ‘innovation teams’ or even ‘innovation departments’ and specific ‘future camps’, which are all great, of course.

Nearly every company wants innovation: innovative ideas, innovative thinking, innovative solutions, innovative products. However, not many organisations have a leadership culture that actually makes it happen.

However, innovation on a practical day-to-day leadership level seems to be rare.

Of course, innovation isn’t just the responsibility of a leader. Everyone has personal responsibility for taking the initiative coming up with new ideas and ways of working, etc.

However, the bit that leaders are responsible for is how they make space for innovation to manifest.

One of the core issues is that most day-to-day leadership is based on the old hierarchical thinking.

Leaders are generally promoted on technical merit -  experience, knowledge and demonstrated capability in a particular field. Leaders nearly always feel they have to provide all the answers and solutions.

The thinking is leaders have the knowledge & answers and hence have to to impart their ‘wisdom’ and ‘wonderful solutions’ to their teams. That’s what they’re paid for, right? But how is that going to help uncover innovation: new thinking, new ideas?

Of course, there’s always a time for leaders giving solutions. And sometimes the leader is the innovator, yes. However, more often than not, all we have is one person’s known solution based on their personal past experience and brain wiring. That doesn’t leave any room for any original or innovative thinking to emerge!

And the busier people are the more pressure they’re under, so they tend to resort to telling people what to do even more. That’s going to further stifle innovation.

Our brain chemistry reinforces this ‘telling people what to do & giving them our own wonderful solutions’ cycle.

When we give a solution to someone, we feel good – we get a nice hit of a reward chemical cocktail, including dopamine and oxytocin. We walk away feeling very pleased with ourselves: ‘job done! There’s another ‘problem solved!’ However, unless the other person is absolutely desperate for the solution, they don’t really get much, if any, of a reward cocktail at all.

The amazing thing is this: if a leader helps someone come to their own solutions and conclusions instead of telling the person, both people get a hit of reward chemicals… so everyone feels good!

So, how do we lead to allow more space for innovation?

Well, research and results show we need to flip current leadership models. We need leaders to tap into the collective brains around them to come up with innovative ideas and ways of solving problems, and much less telling people what to do.

About 70% of the time, asking people what they think & what ideas and options they have allows space for innovation, new ideas and thinking to emerge.

Leaders are often more & more removed from the reality of business. People at ‘the coal face’ usually have some great ideas of how things can be done better as they experience things every day.

Yes, they do have a responsibility to feed that thinking upwards, but leaders can make this happen more easily if they’re allowing space for people to come forward with their own thinking…and ideally give people a chance to try it out - and fail and learn from that failure in an iterative continuous improvement process ideally.

By using an aspect of our  T.O.A.D.  Coaching Leadership style, leaders naturally create space - and safe space at that – to allow others’ innovative ideas and thinking to come forward and sprout.

Simply asking the question: “what’s your thinking around that?” can have deep-reaching effects. It opens space for people to be heard, and to put forward ideas and innovative thinking.  And people feel heard, which is a critical part of people being engaged. More engaged people then come up with better ideas and better thinking, so a constructive innovation cycle is born.

So, to get more innovation, ask people more often: “what’s your thinking around that?”  Just that question. Then shut up and listen.

Before you drive to a solution, take a bit more time and keep on asking that ‘thinking question’ in subtly different ways until you’ve explored things more broadly. You’ll be surprised at what innovation may come out.


Read more here about our Leadership for Innovation

T.O.A.D.TM Coaching Leadership

We define leadership as not just leading your team. It’s also leading yourself, leading your peers and of course leading (managing) upwards.

A ‘catch people doing something right’ mindset is an integral part of our T.O.A.D.TM Coaching Leadership and Giving & Receiving Feedback programs.

T.O.A.D.TM Coaching Leadership  is ask not tell, listen over talk, get people thinking of their own solutions rather than giving them yours, etc approx 70% of the time.

T.O.A.D.TM Coaching Leadership fits in with the neuroscience research in that it puts good chemicals into people's brains so people feel valued and appreciated. They feel happier and hence perform better. It also ticks the boxes of so much other empirical and behavioural research. It is also the core behavioural competency underpinning emotional intelligence.

T.O.A.D.TM Coaching Leadership style (approx 70% of the time) will produce happier, more engaged, people who take more responsibility and think more for themselves and solve more problems themselves.

T.O.A.D.TMCoaching Leadership develops people who operate at peak performance; drive better productivity; deliver better outcomes. More innovation will also result. Aren't these the things we all want as leaders? And from our leaders?

Southern Cross Coaching & Development offers our unique T.O.A.D.TM Coaching Leadership program that gives leaders the tools they need to become Coaching Leaders. We've had such incredible feedback from our clients who have adopted our unique, profoundly simple,  practical and immediately applicable T.O.A.D.TM Coaching Leadership model.

Clients who have adopted it include global listed companies, large NSW Government agencies, nationally listed and large privately owned corporations.

Our T.O.A.D.TM Coaching Leadership model transcends culture and has proven itself time & time again from CEOs & Executives to new managers. We've rolled out the program in Australia and overseas i.e. Malaysia, Singapore. Ask us how it can benefit your team or organisation.

Go to www.southerncrosscoaching.com.au and get in touch there. Or call us direct on +61 2 7901 5618, or email getresults@southerncrosscoaching.com.au


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