Resilience is as good as gold for leaders these days, especially for those whose lives were upended by the challenge of working and leading teams from home. But resilience isn’t just about getting by or bouncing back from adversity. It’s also an opportunity to learn new behaviors and shift your mindset through innovation. Leaders can create an innovative culture and develop new ways of working that solve some of the challenges of work from home models – that are here to stay.
Innovation results from the ability to apply better solutions to a current need. It’s up to the leader to get the team excited to challenge the status quo and share ideas, as the foundation to foster a culture of innovation. This requires leaders to have a sense of openness, accountability, and trust. Ideas may emerge from unlikely sources, so an innovative leader has to be alert for them.
Ways leaders can create curiosity to innovate and succeed in a remote work environment is by having the team look to successful remote working models that existed pre-pandemic, explore the non-traditional and seemingly impossible, and blend partial possibilities from divergent approaches.
Wondering if you’re developing new behaviors for remote work by fostering curiosity and innovation among the team? Here are 3 self-check questions leaders can ask themselves to find out:
1. Am I keeping an open mind to non-traditional approaches to getting work done while remote? It was Adlai Stevenson who said: “All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.” For many, work from home models were born out of desperate times, but most seem to agree that they are here to stay. So, how can you take the input and ideas from the team and make it work - for the team and meet the company’s goals, at the same time?
2. How do I react when the team challenges the status quo of the current remote work protocol? Change, of any sort, requires courage. For the team to feel empowered enough to challenge the current state of mind means you’ve built trust and engagement. The fastest way to stifle innovation is to shut down the free exchange of thoughts and ideas. When someone from the team challenges the current thinking, celebrate their courage.
3. What risks have I allowed the team to take to further the organization? Most leaders want their employees to be curious and experiment. But, as it turns out, they also like to micromanage and control outcomes through safe, predictable, best-practice/single-right answer processes. As a result, leaders wind up squashing the very divergent thinking they want to foster. Divergent thinking is the ability to come up with lots of original ideas for the same old problem. Leaders promote divergent thinking when they stop answering the questions and instead respond with, “What do you think?” And then wait. After an answer is given ask, “What else?” And then repeat this process a few more times.
Traditional models for working as a team are problematic in the new remote working landscape, and sub-optimize success. What worked for you as a leader, pre-pandemic, likely won’t work in the new world; push your team to innovate and use what you learn from them. When you adopt a practice of innovation, resilience will follow.