Cultivating a Creative and Healthy Work Space

MSME ARTICLE #6/2017 : DECEMBER 12th 2017

Leaders in organisations are bombarded with concerns and issues of a sophisticated nature. Besides making speedier decisions in a VUCA environment, these leaders also need to nurture a creative culture such that their direct reports feel empowered to think and craft creative strategies to respond to immediate problems.

I will show-case two of my coaching cases in which the above dilemna were experienced by my client-leaders. In addition, I will share the use of a TOOL- called “Picture Cards”- cards with a multitude of pictures from all aspects of life. When used effectively, these cards enable the leaders to gain insights, understand their role with clarity, appreciate their short-fall as well as craft action steps to move-forward.

Case #1:
One of the leaders that I coached shared that he was struggling in the areas of getting his direct reports to think out of the box; being courageous to bring out new ideas and making creative suggestions on how to improve the workflow processes.

During the coaching process, I discovered his style of leadership was that his direct reports could only see him for very short intervals of time and only for critical and urgent matters. His expectation from them was that they would come prepared with a few options to a very specific problem and he would approve one of their options, so that they can move forward. He did not make time to be with them, either during the process of brainstorming or even to challenge them to think out-of-the-box.

Using the tool of the picture card, the director picked the card below. From this card, I asked him to identify what aspect of the picture was important to him and what could have happened before as well as what could have happened after.

The leader shared that there was a blurred section in the photo which made him feel uncomfortable. Additionally, he interpreted that there was a person who had started the process of arranging the colour pencils but had not completed his tasks. There were still some pencils not arranged in the right direction.

Next I asked him how this picture had any relationship to his current scenario with his direct reports lacking creativity in making suggestions for improvement in the workplace. After some thought, he gained an insight. He realised that if he wanted his team to become creative workers, he needed to “let-go” of his need to be specific and accurate. He needs to allow the “blurr-ness” to co-exist. He needs to train himself to become flexible to embrace the new suggestions, allow the ‘un-tried’ ideas to emerge and become comfortable with the ‘unknown’. All these learnings or ‘aha’ moments were gained in a short time from this tool.

Case #2:
One of my coaching clients, a director, came to our coaching session and stated that she was feeling frustrated. The reason being that one of her direct reports, Mr. X started to give reasons on why he was not able to do some of his jobs. My client refused to accept any of his reasons and saw them as “excuses”. This resulted in a breakdown in communication, as both of their expectations were not met.

In my coaching session, I explored what the director’s belief behind the “excuses” was. She shared that her expectation on Mr. X was that he was employed and given his post because of his capability as well as his potential to execute. So when he says he can’t do, then it is a major let-down for my client.

Using the tool of the picture card, the director picked the card below. From this card, I asked her to identify and share what were the 3 most important details of the card.

She shared- the autumn weather, the lamp-post that divided the picture into two halves and the image of the same man who is unable to decide whether to go left or right. Additionally I asked what was missing in the picture and she shared that there was a lack of leadership to show the direction on exactly where to go. If there was leadership, there would be greater clarity as to the direction to be pursued, and a lot of time and energy would not be wasted.

Next I asked her how this parallels her predicament with Mr. X. She gained an insight as to her gap as a leader to Mr X, who was seeking her input and direction on where to go and what he was supposed to do. She took it for granted that Mr. X ‘should’ know. She also realized that she failed to observe that Mr. X was struggling and needed her support to move forward.

In conclusion, via the “Picture Cards Tool, the process of deep exploration and inquiry was cut short, while the learning and discernment process was speeded-up.

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