The Point: In a constant drive for success and achievement, most leaders find themselves challenged with how best to spur on the creativity of their team to produce innovative results. However, 9/10 (but who’s counting?) this drive for innovation is misconstrued for a$$hole (Yes, that’s the word you’re thinking of – ahole!) behavior. In this post, we’ll examine the leader’s drive for innovation and provide five tips to avoid the ahole innovation trap… Enjoy!
In Steve Jobs We Trust
Meet Susan (name changed to provide anonymity), a hard-driving mid-level manager for a Fortune 100 organization. Susan recently graduated from a top-tier Executive MBA program and is on career path fire in her organization (Even though it is an extremely BIG pond as far as companies go). Having made the half-way point for the year, she finds herself in the luxurious position of being ahead, well ahead, of her individual and teams goals. However, there is one small problem with Susan… She’s an A$$hole according to her team members.
In reviewing results for a recent Behavioral 360 Degree Assessment (One where not only Susan, but her stakeholders – Superiors, Peers, and Subordinates – provided feedback on her behavior/performance/leadership qualities) it was not surprising to see Susan ranking her self higher (at times significantly higher) than that of the stakeholders who she invited to provide feedback. The results were brushed-off by Susan with a simple shrug and accompanying statement of “They [stakeholders] just don’t understand my ‘Steve Jobs’ persona replication… I’m ahead of goal, right?”
The Drive to Innovate
The fine line between leadership innovation and aholery is an easy one to cross, criss-cross, and/or stay on one side as a leader. “Those that innovate survive!” is Susan’s motto, but is it all there is to the road to successful innovation attainment?
I would argue that establishing course direction and accompanying correction upon identification of off-course moments is crucial. However, technique for original goal development, implementation and adaptation is crucial to your stakeholders identifying you as either innovator or ahole. If as a leader you think your stakeholders are misreading the situation, then do something about their perception because their perception is the reality!
5 Tips to Avoid the A$$hole Innovation Trap!
The following are five tips to avoid what I have come to term the “Ahole Innovation Trap” as a leader:
Tip #5 – Goals 1.0
Establish goals with your superiors for what high performance results should be. These should include not only desired results, but metrics that will be captured along the way so as to verify goal attainment (Think of the all too popular ‘dashboard’ and you get the picture).
Tip #4 – Goals 2.0
Review goals established in Goals 1.0 with your team, and with your team’s input identify how these goals should/will be accomplished.
Tip #3 – Delegate Responsibilities
If in Goals 2.0 you’ve identified the desired course forward towards goal attainment, delegate responsibilities to your team members. Establish who will precisely do what by when. IMPORTANT: Review with the team what has just been developed a the conclusion (This might take more than one meeting!) NOTE: You as a leader are not void of responsibility here… Insure that you provide goals for yourself as well in addition to Tip #2 and Tip #1 as follows!
Tip #2 – Accountability
Establish accountability to achieve delegation responsibilities at frequent time intervals with the team. This way, not only can you police activities, but fellow team members can help keep each other on-time/on-target as well.
Tip #1 – Monitor/Measure/Modify
Lastly, as the leader it’s important that you monitor what was established through non-judgmental measurement intervals. If you are on-time/on-target identify how you can accelerate through the timeline. If you are off-time/off-target identify where you came off-track and how you can quickly get back on-track.
In this post we’ve taken a look at the leadership challenge of innovation or ahole, along with five tips for success in being known as an innovator. Regardless of your level of leadership, the skill of innovation can distinguish you from your peers. However, the ability to conduct goal attainment with accompanying ahole recognition can be career limiting.
PS – Susan turned out just fine… Through a series of executive coaching sessions with stakeholder feedback she quickly regained “Innovator” title!