Managers often walk the tightrope between accomplishing their own work and supervising the work of their staff. Juggling these roles can make it difficult to generate creativity, which is important in fostering a dynamic, engaging and effective work environment.
The only thing that makes creativity different from day-to-day activities is that creativity requires us to break our regular routine. There’s a certain comfort in monotony, especially for those who are not company visionaries. Typically, managers execute a task and guide others. But, upon closer inspection – and implementation – I actually find that breaking the routine can be invigorating, and even advantageous. It’s allows for new ideas and a fresh perspective while instilling some fun. This can help propel both manager and staff.
Schedule time just for fun. Already in a non-traditional office setting, my team works both from their own home and from my home. I believe that working in various settings is beneficial for allowing creative ideas to flow, but I know it’s not enough. Every so often, I have a ‘fun day.’ I’ll treat the staff to lunch or ice cream, we’ll head to the pool for an hour, or I’ll invite everyone – and their significant others – to dinner. We get to know each other outside of work and we can relax and unwind. When we come back to work, we have a fresh outlook, and that helps to lift our creative spirit.
Be a team player. I find some of the best ideas can be found by simply encouraging staff to offer their feedback and suggestions. Employees are often the ‘idea executors’ when they should also be seen as ‘idea generators.’ Next time you’re in a meeting, ask people to suggest how things could be done differently – or even better. Encourage them to come up with out-of-the-box ideas and reward them for doing so. This will build momentum to create more – and that creative spirit is infectious, leading managers to think creatively, as well.
Take breaks. Regardless of what role you’re in, it’s difficult to be creative if you’re burned out. A break does not have to be a week at the beach. It can be as simple as getting up and stretching every hour or taking a brisk walk at lunch. In fact, it could just be breaking up your routine. I recently read that we should spend 40 minutes of each hour on tasks at hand and 20 minutes an hour on collaboration. Perhaps collaborating frequently could serve as some of your breaks.
Step outside your comfort zone. Many of us do not take risks or leave our comfort zone because we lack self-confidence or we convince ourselves that our ideas aren’t worthy. Yet, some of the most innovative ideas in history have been unconventional – think Steve Jobs! Expanding horizons not only boosts your creativity but also sets a positive example for the rest of the team.
The biggest misconception about creativity is that it’s always ‘fun.’ While the creative and collaborative process can in fact be fun, the best results often require hard work, a willingness to tolerate a certain amount of frustration, and a willingness to charge yourself and your team. By accepting this up front, we can lead our team in fostering personal growth and professional results.