For your eyes only

If you’re reading this column you’re one of two people — my mother (who thinks it’s pretty cool that her son is a writer) or somebody who is hoping to pick up a nugget of information to help him or her better run his or her organization. So mom, this column’s not designed for you.

For the rest of you, if you take one idea from this month’s missive and issue of Smart Business let it be this: Unleash your employees.

Do it today. Don’t wait. Don’t run a cost-benefit analysis. Don’t think about the short-term cost. Don’t fret over disrupting the hierarchy. And definitely don’t put together a task force charged with developing a plan for management to analyze and make recommends on.

Recently, I had the honor of having the CEO of a company quote me to me — which can be as unnerving as it is flattering — and his message was just as direct: If you want to be an innovative organization, you must tap into and, just as importantly, use the ideas from everyone within the work force.

For years, I’ve proselytized about the five traits all innovative organizations share — regardless of size, industry or even if they’re a for-profit, nonprofit or governmental entity. Simply put, the third of those five rules is: Innovative leaders build organizational cultures where innovation thrives, and they understand that it does not happen in a vacuum.

So here’s the plan — five items. Start here and then fill in the blanks by personalizing it to each of your organizations:

  1. Develop lines for open communication at all levels of an organization. (A so-called open-door policy doesn’t cut it.)
  2. Empower and trust employees to think creatively about how they do their jobs.
  3. Provide all team members with the tools they need to accomplish their goals. (This may cost some money, but if you trip over dollars to save pennies, you have only yourself to blame for falling short.)
  4. Allow people to own the ideas they champion. (You’ll be amazed what happens when your team goes that extra mile to see their ideas become reality.)
  5. Create an environment where those people are able to collaborate with others in order to bring them to life or take them to market. (This will require a mind shift at multiple levels of an organization and may just be the biggest hurdle you face. But it is imperative to tying everything together.)


There you have it, a straightforward strategy, a simple yet powerful plan when executed properly. Now, what are you waiting for? Go become an innovation leader by unleashing your employees.