What Is The Ultimate Creativity Killer?

You know how frustrating it is when you’re driving and there’s someone sitting in the back seat, wincing and groaning as you maneuver through traffic? They’re making strong suggestions (read as, barking orders) about which way to go. There are many managers who act the same way in their organizations. They are constantly watching over their team, telling them what to do and how to do it. This type of micromanagement is disheartening for the employee. Not to mention, it gives them no opportunity to create new ideas and approaches if they aren’t given the space to experiment.

Micromanagement is all about control. It is the act of controlling how an employee performs specific tasks or their role. It does immense harm to an organization. It implies a lack of trust between the manager and the employee and a lack of faith in the employee’s ability to do their job. Micromanaging breeds frustration wastes time and ultimately kills team morale. Why can’t managers see that?

Control is the ultimate creativity killer!

Creativity is the driving force behind new products, stand out ideas, improved efficiencies and problem solving. Creativity is the edge your organization needs to remain competitive and to grow. Creativity can only exist when people are trusted, free of judgment and encouraged to experiment.

To foster a creative environment you need to inject some freedom. People have to know they are free to break convention and take risks. They need to be given space to formulate different thinking. Most importantly, they need to be allowed to make mistakes and fail. When failure happens – and it will – give people the time they need to study the failure so they can make improvements. Innovative organizations fail more than they succeed. Failure is the price you pay for being an innovative organization.

Creativity Is Not Doing Things The Way They Have Been Done Before!

Creativity comes from freedom. It’s about giving people the space – mental and physical – to achieve their objectives in a way that fits them. As a manager your role is to set the vision and goals and then to support people as they pursue those goals in a way that makes sense to them.

To foster creativity managers need to stop:

  • Trying to be right all the time. It’s out-dated to think that just because you are the manager, you know everything. Winning today is about hiring great people, encouraging them to share their ideas and going with the solution that makes the best sense, no matter where it comes from. It’s worth remembering that as your responsibilities increase your risk tolerance decreases. Creativity requires risk and the most senior people are usually most risk adverse.
  • Needing to have the final say. This follows the need to be right all the time. Managers sometimes want to have final sign off on everything before anything can move forward. This halts momentum and creates the tendency amongst employees to “please the boss” rather than the customers. Managers should set the goals and the timelines, and then empower people to deliver without the need to check in all the time.
  • Being involved in decisions that don’t require them. Managers who think they are responsible for making all the decisions in their organization breed a culture of frustration; a culture they often don’t know exists. Managers should be constantly asking, “What decisions do I no longer need to make?” Delegating responsibility to others to make important decisions creates a sense of empowerment among the team and freedom for people to find their own path to the goal.
  • Treating everyone the same. Managers who set policies about working hours, stress over organograms and demand lots of reports fail to maximize their employees. Managers today need to allow for flexibility amongst their employees; people have different priorities and approaches. If you embrace what each employee needs to be successful, you’ll encourage more creativity into your organization.
  • Trying to find consensus. It’s important to gather information and input before making decisions. But trying to please everyone and talking ideas to death before making a decision isn’t a recipe for success. Consensus will dilute winning ideas. Creativity comes with risk. It requires you to step into the unknown. Seek input and then choose the most exciting and rewarding approach. Accept that not everyone will agree; that’s a good thing!

Ultimately, managers have to be willing to relinquish control and the way they think things should be done in order to build an innovative business. The only question that should matter to a manager is, “Are my employees meeting expectations and producing the work they are supposed to?” There is no benefit to hiring great people and then controlling their every move. Empower them to be great. Stop hiding behind the hierarchy. You may not be the smartest person on the team. You may not have all the answers. That doesn’t matter; you are there to help the organization find success. You are not there to control everything, but instead to serve those you have hired. Help them find creative solutions to your customer’s problems, and your business will grow.

Paul Kaye
VP, Product and Talent Development for Rogers in Canada

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