Do you want to make your business buzz with vitality? Do you want your employees to create new solutions as a team? It‘s all about making your company vibrant. Employees need to buy in to the vision. Employees need to be alert and have their creative juices rewarded. The company needs to be alive and buzzing.
Based on my decades as an entrepreneur and executive, here’s my take on what leaders need to do:
- Set high standards. No, not just profitability goals or sales targets. Whatever you do you have to be the best. The customer or client has to feel that they are getting the best widget, platform, consulting ideas, etc. that anyone could imagine. This end result can only happen if every employee is making it happen. Everyone has to want to be the best. Everyone has to have that competitive itch that makes them put in the extra effort to put their particular contribution over the top.
- Have a sense of humor. Be pleasant. Smile. (More on this in a bit.)
- Be compassionate. When people fall, help them up. If they are willing to learn and not make the same mistake twice, compassion can lead to great loyalty.
- Get your hands dirty. Sometimes, dive down into what each group is doing so that you understand their struggles and what they are trying to accomplish.
- Be creative and reward it in others. A major route to creativity is (drum roll here): Noticing. Open your eyes and Notice what’s around you. Do not stare at a screen all day. Look around. Think about what you have seen. Teach your employees to Notice too. In the summer of 2014, Harvard Business Review had an article entitled “Becoming a First-Class Noticer.” It talked about how essential it is for leaders to Notice. I define Noticing as “mindfulness with a smile.” Mindfulness is paying attention, being in the moment. The smile makes it memorable. The smile comes from zippers and broccoli.
- A zipper is a simple solution that works. Zip! You’re done! Can you Notice “zippers” in your workplace. If you can, maybe you can think of ways to replicate them. Maybe you can invent new “zippers”. Notice if any work processes are more like a Rube Goldberg invention than a zipper. Rube Goldberg inventions are unnecessarily complicated to the nth degree. Think if you can “zipperize” your Rube Goldberg processes. When I am speaking to corporate groups and I ask them to name zippers, they come up with things like templates, minutes to a meeting, Dropbox, consistent email subject lines, etc. Other zippers commonly in use range from KJ Diagrams to SurveyMonkey to Hootsuite. Consulting firms have had huge success inventing zippers – selling simplified solutions. Bottom line is: you want to find or invent all the simple solutions you can. Notice zippers!
- Now broccoli. A basic form of analysis is to Notice and recognize patterns. Basic kinds of patterns that you see in the workplace have to do with how work gets done and how people behave. Often you can Notice repeating patterns. Broccoli is a lovely vegetable made up of a repeating pattern of smaller and smaller broccolis. Notice the “broccoli” and teach your employees to Notice broccoli. When you Notice broccoli – patterns – you have a choice. If the broccoli is fresh and deep green, figure out if you can replicate it elsewhere. If the broccoli is kind of drooping and yellowing, disrupt it and replace it with a delicious, fresh broccoli Notice so you can replicate or disrupt.
- Why use the terms zippers and broccoli, rather than simple solutions and patterns? See number 2. It makes people smile, and this new vocabulary is a memorable shorthand. You can have Notice the Zippers standing meetings frequently and brainstorm new solutions. You can have Notice the Broccoli meetings which will take some of the sting out of discussing old, negative patterns that need to be disrupted.
- One more thing leaders need to Notice: Human Idiosyn-Crazies™. These are the endearingly dumb things we all do. We all have them. We need to Notice them in ourselves before we go pointing them out in other people. Are you a person who has an open door policy? Or are you a person who requires an Outlook invitation even if someone has a simple, one minute question? These are Human Idiosyn-Crazies. We need to be quick to laugh at ourselves. I believe that laughing at ourselves builds up the fuel for us to be kinder to other people and their Human Idiosyn-Crazies.
- Perhaps in addition to being an extremely effective business leader, you might also be interested in squeezing the dickens out of your life? Life is not one big to-do list. Notice what you see at work and outside of work, at home and in your community…and smile. Notice with all five of your senses. Notice the zippers, broccoli, and Human Idiosyn-Crazies. You will be amazed at how much fuller your life will be.
Noticers are vibrant people, radically amazed at what they see. Noticers build companies that are buzzing with vitality. Noticing is the secret to success – both in the workplace and in life in general.