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Planning Killed the Creative Star

As individuals, we know what works best for ourselves. When it comes to tackling problems, I usually dive in, get my hands dirty and learn as I go, doing whatever research is necessary along the way. But personalities differ, which is why as managers we should tweak our management approach to compliment our employees’ work styles. Some of us are natural planners, others aren’t, so when the scale of a project allows us to be flexible in our approach, why not?

I’m not saying that employees everywhere should abandon planning. It’s not a good time to throw caution to the wind and take unnecessary risks at work. What I am suggesting, however, is that we really listen to employees. Do they need managers telling them how to complete every project every time? Employees learn and approach work differently, but if their strategies more often than not turn out a great “product,” who are we to say how it should be done (as long as it’s ethical/within company policy, etc.)?

Google gives employees free time to explore their own projects and some great products have resulted. Trust is a major confidence booster that employees could use right now. Even if we don’t have the resources Google does, as managers, we can still help our employees feel supported by giving them a little space, which might be just what they need to tap into their creative talents. What are the advantages for managers? Engaged, productive employees who consistently engineer innovative ideas that wind up saving your company resources (i.e., time, money), or even better, generate revenue. Additionally, you’ll have more free time to concentrate on the big picture since you’ll spend more time guiding employees and less time micromanaging.

Before sending employees off on their own – give them the basics they need to be successful, like the purpose of the project, desired results, how it fits into the big picture, and hints for stuff to avoid, and/or examples of what has failed in the past. The point is to guide employees and help them when they need it, rather than being so focused on a plan that the process distracts employees from reaching, or surpassing the goal. Give employees the freedom to come up with their own plans and keep in mind that you should be available, communicate effectively, and not pull the plug at the first sign of failure. Give ‘em a chance to come to you first and help when asked, otherwise you’ll inevitably knock the wind out of their sails. Here’s a great example of open communication from a Harvard Business Blog about a manager of a Four Seasons hotel (also great examples of proximity management).

A recent study that investigated the role of empowerment and perceived organizational support provides great insight into why high involvement work processes produce positive changes in employee attitudes and job satisfaction, as well as the importance of organizational support. In short, it’s important to give employees the freedom to be successful in their own right and ensure that they feel supported by the organization and their managers along the way.

Does your company have innovative ways of encouraging employees’ independent thinking? How has it paid off? I’d love to hear about some creative approaches!

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jessica McKenzie, MS published on July 17, 2009 2:58 PM.

The Word on the Street was the previous entry in this blog.

A Culture of Respect is the next entry in this blog.

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