Getting to Change Agility – Creativity

Today I was fortunate to attend the Change Management Institute (@ChangeMgtIns) 2013 conference on ‘Getting to Change Agility’ (#changemanagement) at Doltone House in scenic Pyrmont. Here is the first in a series of blogs sharing summaries of the sessions I attended including my key takeaways.

Keynote: Todd Sampson (@toddsampsonOz) ‘A celebration of the power of creativity in solving any problem’

I was highly anticipating this keynote from Todd having watched him in action on ABC’s, The Gruen Transfer and he did not disappoint! His session describing creativity as one of the last remaining competitive advantages companies have today was practical and inspiring for all. Todd started with a story of a 2006 breakfast meeting at the Hilton in Sydney where the creative idea of earth hour was conceived. Seven years later the event has become a global movement with 135 countries participating reaching over 1 billion people!

earth hour

He shared how the most successful leaders in his vast experience balance creativity and fear and that creativity can solve any business problem. This links to Brene Brown’s research on vulnerability being at the core of creativity and innovation. Organisations need to be looking internally for creativity and not just at the top of organisations but looking down. The average age at Todd’s agency Leo Bunett is 26!

Todd’s own approach to leadership hires enthusiasm over experience and qualifications which I would highly advocate. His process in order is People (first), Product then Profit. This has seen employee engagement increase from 42-88%.

My key session insight was that creative leaders have the ability to be braver for a little bit longer than others the audience were challenged, can you be brave for 5 minutes longer? Todd shared a personal and professional example of this which I reflected on from my own experience:

  • Personal: Mountain climbing alone in Alaska, after being stationary for four days due to a Blizzard Todd had a decision to continue to the mountain summit or retreat down the mountain. He embraced fear which led to amazing clarity at the summit. I resonated with this thinking back to the world age group triathlon champs in Auckland last year. I was still very new to swimming and got completely disoriented by the rough incoming tide with a lack of open water experience. In that moment where I felt like I was going nowhere I could have held onto a lifesaver board and be taken in or battle through to complete the swim. I was brave fro 5 minutes longer and had a great experience on the bike and the run to complete the race in my GB colours. 
  • Professional: Todd took the step up to CEO after being a number 2 for years and utilised fear to be brave to change the poor organisational culture. A recent example of embracing fear in my professional life to balance creativity is taking a risk and starting a network of young professionals, IECL NEXGEN which has been very well received so far. 

We learnt the optimum duration for a creative stream is 20 minutes and were encouraged to try this on a problem we’re trying to solve. The good news is creativity can be learnedone tip is to ‘rent a head’ and borrow someone else’s perspective, i.e. think how would Apple or Richard Branson approach this? Learning to be creative requires a mindset switch. Todd explores this in episode two of his show Redesign my Brain, ‘Make me Creative’ which is available on iview here

2f3fd342-3534-11e3-89bf-107997ca3bd1_toddsampson--646x363

Todd shared his concern and passion area about the current education system which teaches children to magically memorise vs thinking for themselves. He describes the importance of thinking laterally and references Dr Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats.  A TED talk for those interested in this topic is Ken Robertson on how schools kill creativity.

As a final comment linking back to my key insight bravery is acknowledging fear (not an absence) and pushing through, I challenge myself and readers to be brave for 5 minutes longer.

Thank you Todd for sharing your stories and encouraging us all to embrace creativity as the last competitive edge!

Lean In

On a recent vacation in Hawaii I finally got round to reading “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. This had been on my reading list since attending Avril Henry’s ‘Great Leaders are Made’ program earlier in the year. The book described as “The business manual of the year” by the Times has received a multitude of media coverage and testimonials from key figures including Sir Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Chelsea Clinton.

I’ve summarised my top ten takeaways below and would love to hear from others who have read the book and your insights!:

1. Honesty and authenticity are key leadership attributes. These are attributes we talk to leaders about frequently at my workplace, the IECL. Sheryl talks about exploring this with Fred Kofman, founder of the conscious business model to make her a better leader.

2. Mentorship and sponsorship are key for success in business. I can testament to this from recent business success supported by a powerful mentoring relationship.

3. Having a supportive life partner who supports you and doesn’t compete is a great benefit. My husband Owain has been one of the biggest supporters of my career and always encourages me to be the best I can be.

4. Women need to lean in, sit at the table and take risks – I have seen this first hand in board room meetings where women can have less presence because of their voice. I love seeing an assertive woman make a positive impact.

5. Lean in until childbirth – not years before! Sheryl talks about not leaving a job before you leave having seen experienced women leaning back from opportunities due to wanting a family in the future even a decade before this is reality. She encourages us this is the time to lean in, continue to add value, seize opportunities and ensure you come back to a job you will enjoy!

6. Think of your career path as a jungle gym and not a ladder where you can step down and across in order to climb higher. I love this analogy and that challenging yourselves with a sideways move into a new can be just as constructive as taking a step up the traditional ladder.

7. Be champions of other women in leadership! Sheryl quotes a former secretary of state Madeleine Albright who once said “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” which I cannot agree we more. We need to work together and pay our success forward to the next generation.

8. Importance of open feedback and receptiveness to learn. The best leaders are the ones who are open to feedback and continually learning. Sheryl describes a successful negotiation from a colleague who then asked what they could have done better. If we only believe our own truth we lack self awareness and mindfulness, key attributes of inspirational leaders.

9. Success and likeability. When a woman excels at her job, Sheryl writes about her experience of hearing remarks such as she may be accomplishing a lot but is “not as well-liked by her peers.” as male coworkers and is probably “too aggressive”, “not a team player”, “difficult” etc. I have come across such hostility and do not feel the need to be liked but respect is key. I also happen to think that being nice is one of the most underrated positive business traits, we’re all human after all!

10. Speak your truth – like young children do Sheryl encourages us to speak our truth for a more authentic leadership style. I have the pleasure of currently collaborating with a leader who does this remarkably, always in a mindful, calm and collected state.

I think women and men need to work together to make the workplace more balanced and that we such all take a lesson from Sheryl and lean in to opportunities and challenge ourselves!

I encourage you to view Sheryl’s TEDtalk ‘Why we have too few women leaders’ and join the lean in community at www.leanin.org and www.facebook.com/leaninorg

lean-in