Watching the last series of The Apprentice on TV with Sir Alan Sugar, I almost choked on my ‘oo la la’ ginger tea. Sir Alan accused one of the candidates of being indecisive. But the candidate vehemently denied it. He said he’d been working for a large corporate retailer for six years. And he wouldn’t be there for so long if he was indecisive. Now would he?
With his usual brash delivery Sugar told him, “I know a few people who work for that organsiation. They go around with dustbin lids over their a***. “
I spluttered with laughter.
It’s sad but true that often brilliant people are afraid to say what they think or make a decision.
There’s a saying;
‘Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM.’
Well, it’s a case of never a truer word spoken in jest.
IBM while being a solid company was a euphemism for dull. You hired them because you were afraid. And you wanted a butt covering option. They were the safe pair of hands. When people are fearful, they seek safety. Too much ‘safety’ leads to staleness. There will always be a target customer for the IBM’s of this world.
Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin says;
“At Virgin we don’t hire great people and tell them what to do, instead, we hire smart people who can tell us what to do.”
Freshness comes through creating a culture where people feel comfortable expressing their views. Organisations often believe that they already have that in place. But the truth is revealed when quiet conversations at the water cooler, kitchen or pub are markedly different to what is expressed to its leaders. That’s one signal that you have a dustbin lid culture.
A freshness culture instead is one where people stop feeling the need to shield themselves and censor what they say. Great leaders make people feel safe. That’s a crucial leadership skill.
Here are some simple ways to encourage fresh-thinking in your organisation:
Listen like a tree with ears.
Don’t assume that you know what people are about to say.
Let people tell their story without judging them.
Be patient, sometimes it takes time for people to fully express themselves.
Ask questions to increase your understanding.
Wonder if people who always say ‘yes’ are being honest with you.
Look for the brilliance in everyone.
Cultivate ways to make people feel safe.
It’s spring, so maybe it’s time to encourage and nurture more fresh-thinking in your organisation?