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On the Management Side: Promote Creativity Among Your People

What can you do to stimulate the dormant creativity in your organization?IDENTIFY YOUR PROBLEM.

What can you do to stimulate the dormant creativity in your organization?

IDENTIFY YOUR PROBLEM. The more specific you can be, the better, for it isn't possible to come up with imaginative solutions to general difficulties. If you say, "This department is a mess," there isn't a clue as to what you are looking for. But say, "We're wasting too much time" and your people have something to zero in on. It will be even more helpful if you can say:

  • "What we need are fewer interruptions."
  • "There are too many shipping delays."
  • "We're not meeting our deadlines."
  • "You're all spending too much time on the telephone."

SUGGEST APPROACHES. Help your people rev up their imaginations by suggesting lines of attack. First, make sure they fully understand how things are done now; otherwise, they won't be able to offer ideas for improvement. Second, isolate the trouble spot if you can: "This is where things start going wrong."

Or, "If we could only get shipping to keep up with our output." If possible, point out promising areas for further investigation: "The people in our downtown facility don't seem to have this trouble."

KEEP IN TOUCH. By doing so, you accomplish several important things. You underscore your interest in the progress of your people and keep the creative ball rolling. You create a subtle air of competition, pitting one individual against another. You give yourself a chance to help with any problems that your people may be running into. And you can spot discouragement and help dispel it by pointing out that it is part of the creative process. A little cheerleading can go a long way when it comes to problem solving.

GIVE THEM TIME. Creativity is a very personal process that varies with the individual. Some people can come up with ideas quickly; others require time. Some have to try out each idea, testing it in the field before they are willing to share it with anyone. Others can rehearse it in their heads and describe it easily and quickly. Neither is superior to the other. Both approaches work and it's a mistake to try to force the thoughtful worker into premature action or to grow impatient with the person who uses the trial-and-error method.

Keeping Appointments—More Important Than Ever Inside or outside a business, the matter of "calendar integrity" is an inherent indication of the orderliness with which the company plans and exercises its functions. Therefore, when a manager makes an appointment or calls a meeting, he has a responsibility to keep the appointed time.

Probably most of us are well aware of our company's image in this regard with the external business community and conduct our outside activities accordingly. But many times, inside the company, we violate this sound business practice and common courtesy. To keep people waiting beyond their scheduled appointment is, in most cases, inexcusable. To have people arrive at your office from another company location and then inform them that you're behind schedule, or that the meeting has been canceled, is not only inconsiderate but a total waste of valuable time and resources—a luxury no company can afford.

There is a very negative effect on morale if you ask someone to prepare a presentation for you or your staff and then cancel the time. Most employees and managers are dedicated to doing a quality job. After they've gotten up for a presentation, the letdown from a cancellation is disheartening and the next time it may not be done as enthusiastically.

In today's fast moving, complex business world, there will always be a need for meetings, presentations and appointments, but everyone can make "calendar integrity" a way of doing business and benefit from its discipline.

Managing the Physically Challenged
As companies have discovered that the physically challenged represent an important reservoir of talent, such people have become a significant—and growing—portion of the workforce. Consequently, if you do not already manage someone who is handicapped, the odds are increasing that some day you will.

Are there any special requirements for a manager of disabled employees? Not really, for managing them takes what it's always taken to manage people effectively: a sensitivity to human needs, good communications, a sense of humor. Some things to bear in mind:

The general rule is, treat them as you would anyone else. That's the way they want it. And that's what they deserve.

Never be patronizing toward a physically challenged employee.

Make sure you understand the disability. A frank discussion early in the game about its nature and extent is the best approach. Most people will tell you exactly what their handicap is and, consequently, what—if any—their special needs may be.

Assume nothing about the individual's abilities or limitations. Many disabled people have more than compensated for any physical limitations by developing highly creative and innovative skills.

Don't prejudge potential either. If a person with a disability is qualified and eligible for promotion and can do the job, consider him a serious candidate. If uncertain, discuss the requirements of the position with the employee and let him tell you whether or not it should be pursued.

Cultivate Good Listening Habits
Good listening habits involve not only hearing what someone says, but being sensitive to such nonverbal clues as voice inflection, facial expressions, and gestures. The things you can't hear may tell you more accurately than words what is really on a person's mind.

One effective aid to concentration is being physically attentive. When speaking to someone, look directly at him and sit up straight. Withhold judgment of what he is saying until you have heard him out. Don't interrupt. Right now all you want to do is make sure you understand what he is saying.

Above all, avoid reading into the speaker's remarks meanings that were not intended. Almost any statement is capable of more than one interpretation. Placing yourself in the other person's shoes will help you see the connotations he gives them. When a slow, easygoing person says, "We should get on this job right away," the temptation is to interpret "right away" as in a day or two. When someone you know to be conscientious and slow to give praise tells you that so-and-so is a hard worker, you should understand his frame or reference and interpret his statement accordingly.

You also have to watch for other signs to interpret words. Much important meaning is conveyed visually. Finger tapping, a wide-eyed look, a furrowed brow—these mean as much as words do, sometimes more.

An individual's posture, for example, can tell you something about his attitude. If somebody says, "Well, it doesn't really matter to me," but his posture is stiff, his knuckles white, his eyes intense, and his forehead damp, clearly he is holding back his true feelings.

In such a situation, it's important to make him realize that you want to hear his thoughts, that he has nothing to fear from speaking his mind. A properly worded statement that shows your interest may put him at ease. The ability to create rapport that invites open communication is one of the most valuable skills a manager can possess. 

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