Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke

Leadership Blog

Creativity Lost (and Found)

“Joshua, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Age 2: “An elephant”
Age 4: “A paleontologist”
Age 6: “A rock star”
Age 8: “A maestro”

As a father, I am pleased to see my oldest son becoming more pragmatic regarding his future vocation. As a business consultant, however, I am saddened by the lessening of creativity. I gotta tell ya, I loved his response at age two. So what happens to us? When we are young, really young, the world is filled with possibilities. Yet, as we grow older, and the world beats on us, we narrow our vision. Actually, some of us grow pretty darn myopic. Helen Keller was once asked if she was sad that she was blind. I loved her reply. “The loss of sight,” she said, “does not sadden me. What makes me sad is when people lose their vision.” How is your leadership vision and creativity these days? Need a little tune up? Well, when I work with teams that need to notch up their creativity, I ask a lot of questions and break out the Play-Doh and Lincoln Logs. This space does not allow me enough words to fully describe the activities, but let me assure you, every team always rises to the occasion and presents creative and pragmatic answers to my questions. While I can’t give away all my secret questions and techniques, I can share a few questions for you to ask your team members right now.
1. What is the biggest thing we are currently doing right?
2. What are two specific positives that result from what we do right?
3. If we could change one thing (that we have the ability to change) what would that be?
4. What are two specific positives that would result from that change?
5. Envision you are our customer. What is one tiny thing we could do or offer that would delight you?
6. As you look at our organization, what is your perception of what we are really passionate about?

Attention leaders: seek to get a brutally honest answer from question number six. Sometimes, the answers received are clearly not what you are hoping to hear. This is not a bad thing. Heck, it may save your company. Take heed to what your people perceive. Listen to their feedback and dreams about your organization. Together, paint a picture of what your organization should look like right now. Not to just survive, but to thrive. What would your organization really look like right now if it was just awesome? An elephant? Who knows? Take your blinders off and find out.

Posted by Doug Van Dyke on 2009-02-17 at 08:08 AM
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Staying Authentic

Recently, I met a fellow named Mark. Nice guy, talented, a fine professional. Mark works for an organization that is being challenged with some cutbacks – imagine that. In an effort to learn more about the cutbacks facing his organization, Mark decided to visit his congressman – in the State Capital. Mark was surprised at the ease with which he was able to make an appointment. In addition, he was pleasantly surprised that his congressman actually listened to his appeal. When he started his journey Mark admitted saving his job was foremost in his mind. During his journey he practiced what he would say to the congressman. Listening to himself, Mark questioned his motives and thought about his colleagues and the bigger picture. Mark jettisoned his speech, took a deep breath, and started saying what felt authentic. By the time he entered his congressman’s office he had reached this conclusion: “If my intentions are pure, I will be successful.” Isn’t that a marvelous mindset: “Pure intentions!” For many people, the current business climate is quite a challenge. It is during challenging times that we learn so much about ourselves, and about others. Far too many people are currently operating as lone wolves, adopting a mantra of “every person for themselves.” Frankly, it is hard to blame some people – they are faced with tough circumstances. Perhaps they would be wiser, however, if they recognized that “we are all in this together.” Good times, tough times, all times, we are collectively in this wonderful game together. Stand back. Take a breath people. Stop talking about the economy. Honestly, I challenge you, that’s right, you. Do not mention the economy at all today. Bet you can’t do it! And that is the point. Many of us have been driven off center by crap (note: this is a literary term for crap) that we have heard in the media and cannot control. Yet, we allow this “stuff” to negatively impact our demeanor. Keep in mind, when we are our most powerful we possess a confident, positive mindset. The good news is, we can choose the mindset of our liking. Let’s return to Mark for a moment. Did his actions solve anything? Well, rather than face a huge cutback, his organization settled for a palatable 4% cutback. Did Mark enable the savings? Who knows, but his actions certainly didn’t hurt. What Mark definitively did was inspire his colleagues. When they found out about his journey (from another colleague, not from Mark) they were blown away. They sat open-mouthed while he was asked to tell his story. They committed to each other to make a difference and to keep their intentions pure. So I submit to you, keep your intentions pure. Focus on the positives in your world. Then, go out there and make a big impact on them. No idea where to begin? Perhaps a visit to your State capital is in order.

Posted by Doug Van Dyke on 2009-02-09 at 08:11 AM
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