Igniting Your Creativity

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In the span of 24 hours I saw three articles on how to spark your creativity cross my Facebook news feed.  Let me save you the time of reading them all yourself and tell you exactly what they have in common.  I’ve also summarized each article below for your convenience.

Observe + Process
All types of creative people seem to agree that intentionally making the time to stop, look around, observe your surroundings, and take notes on life is an important part of sparking creativity and new ideas.  But there is a 2nd step that is equally important.  Creative people find a space, usually alone, to process and synthesize all that they have observed.  Not only does this allow time for your mind to slow down after being stimulated by new input, but it creates a place for your mind to make connections between otherwise disparate objects/people/ideas, thereby creating a new idea.

Daydream + Play
Creative people often advise others to intentionally carve out time to let your mind wander and play.  Not only is this a creative exercise itself, but it often distracts the mind from your “normal work” which is usually when breakthroughs occur.  Have some fun with it, stare at a wall or a tree or the sky, let your mind go for a walk and see what happens.

Joy + Passion
Creative people tend to engage in activities that bring them joy and that they are passionate about.  They do these things, not for money or recognition, but because it puts them in what is known as “flow state” where they lose all track of time.  Finding internal motivation (vs external such as money) to fully engage in an activity is a quick way to ignite creativity.

Breaks + Change of Scenery
Both creative people and researchers will tell you that taking regular breaks is an effective way to reduce burnout and creative blocks.  Next time you are feeling stuck, or you want to fire up the creative juices, consider walking away from your desk or studio or wherever you normally work, and get outside.  Change your vantage point and your perspective, literally, and you may find a new idea to work with.

Here are the summary lists from each article on how to spark creativity:

10 Steps to Grow & Unleash Your Creativity
according to Chase Jarvis, elite photographer, SXSW speaker, also recognized for his writing and directing
Read the full article by clicking here

Note: words in parentheses are my own brief descriptions of the content

  1. Pursue a Creative Craft (intentionally engage your mind)
  2. Find a Space (to “sample the mayhem” and “then synthesize”)
  3. Play (take regular breaks)
  4. Find a Tribe (of like-minded individuals to share ideas)
  5. Show Your Work (not just the final product)
  6. Imperfection + Iteration (don’t let perfection hold you back)
  7. Put More of You Into Your Work (don’t be afraid to use your own voice)
  8. Doubts?  You’re Doing it Right (taking a little risk is a positive sign)
  9. Make Something Every Day (stay creatively active)
  10. You Have Nothing to Lose (remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of believing you have something to lose)

10 Creative Rituals You Should Steal
by Sean Blanda, Managing Editor and Producer of 99u
Read the full article by clicking here

Note: words in parentheses are my own brief descriptions of the content

  1. Take a Quarterly Vacation (change your environment and get out of town)
  2. Hold a “Retroactive” After Projects (debrief and download your experiences with others)
  3. Write Every Day (writing forces you to locate your clarity – “The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.” ~Mortimer J Adler)
  4. Create an Interesting People Fund (set aside time/money to meet interesting people)
  5. Keep “Tear Sheets” to Get Inspired (take breaks when you are stuck, revisit beautiful things you’ve saved)
  6. Nap Every Day (protect your time, say no, and stay rested)
  7. Envision What You Will Be Remembered For (use a creative writing exercise to create a vision of what you want)
  8. Brainstorm at the Bar (don’t do the “think-work” in the studio – that’s a space for the work-work)
  9. Get Out of the Building (don’t stare at a blank page – get out into the observable world)
  10. Engage in “Morphological Synthesis” (force yourself to think outside the normal boundaries of things)

18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently
by Carolyn Greggoire, Features Editor at the Huffington Post
Read the full article by clicking here

Note: words in parentheses are my own brief descriptions of the content

  1. They Daydream (make time to allow your mind to wander)
  2. They Observe Everything (take notes on life)
  3. The Work the Hours that Work for Them (9am-5pm is not the agreed upon hours of creativity)
  4. They Take Time for Solitude (take time to synthesize what you observe and listen to that inner voice)
  5. They Turn Life’s Obstacles Around (use post-traumatic growth to learn from setbacks)
  6. They Seek Out New Experiences (stay open to new experiences, places, people, and ideas)
  7. They “Fail Up” (failing fast is one agreed upon way to be creative and succeed)
  8. They Ask the Big Questions (stay curious and explore)
  9. They People-Watch (observe other humans expressing themselves or interacting can generate new thoughts)
  10. They Take Risks (to create without risk is impossible – sharing something new is inherently risky)
  11. They View All of Life as an Opportunity for Self-Expression (imagine your life as one big canvas for art – the way you express yourself daily is the paint)
  12. They Follow Their True Passions (find activities that are intrinsically motivated, not by money or recognition)
  13. They Get Out of Their Own Heads (try to think as if you were someone else or as if you were seeing something familiar for the first time)
  14. They Lose Track of the Time (engage with activities that both interest you and challenge you to achieve “flow state”)
  15. They Surround Themselves with Beauty (nature, art, fashion, etc tend inspire new thoughts)
  16. They Connect the Dots (look for the connection between two otherwise disparate things)
  17. They Constantly Shake Things Up (create a diversity of experiences)
  18. They Make Time for Mindfulness (use meditation to relax, focus, and find “center” again)

How To Get People To Follow You

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Within just a few short weeks of beginning the strategic planning process with a new client, the leader asks me a question. 

follow-us“How do I convince my people that this stuff works and we need to make some changes to the way we do things?”

The question can take many similar forms:

  • How do I get more buy-in from my team?
  • How do persuade them that _____________ is a good idea?  (e.g. daily huddles, more accountability, etc.)
  • How do I show my people that what got us here won’t get us there?

I like to return the question with another question:  “Well, how did I convince you that this (coaching, strategic planning, etc.) was a good idea?”

The answer is simple and we’ve all heard it before:  WIIFM.  What’s in it for me? 

When presented with change, employees ask themselves the WIIFM question – sometimes consciously, but usually not. 

When I present the Velocity Leadership Success Model to a business owner or executive leader, I clearly educate them on how using our system will benefit them personally and professionally.  I do this through a number of mediums include written words, diagrams, assessments, etc.  However, the most powerful tool I have at my disposal is my enthusiasm for helping them grow their business and my confidence that the system works. 

So, how can you gain more buy-in from your team?  Try answering some of these questions first:

  • What am I really asking of them?
  • Why is it important to me?
  • What are the questions/fears they might have when presented with change?
  • How might the change adversely affect them?
  • How might the change benefit them?
  • How can I use my gifts/strengths/energy/enthusiasm to educate them?

Once you have a deep level of clarity on these questions, it’s time to tap into your enthusiasm for where you want to go and share that with your team.  Your people need to clearly your see your vision in order to help you get there. 

As my friend and entrepreneur, Scott Offerdahl says often, “I’m a great listener but a terrible mind-reader.”  Don’t expect your team to read your mind.  Share the vision of the benefits of change.  Share the reason behind your motivation.  Share your enthusiasm and optimism for what is to come. 

Consistent communication around where the company is headed is essential.  If your team isn’t sick of hearing about your vision then you haven’t said it enough.  Everyone on your team should be able to recite the vision.  Everyone on the team should be able to clearly articulate where the team is going, and how they plan to get there.

It’s this level of clarity, focus, communication, repetition and enthusiasm that will get you results. 

Leadership Success Model

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At Velocity, we have been working on packaging the value we offer to entrepreneurial clients into a tangible model that can be easily understood and followed.  

The Issue
In our experience working with entrepreneurs, there are a few pain-points that seem to be consistent, and it is these areas that we seek to address with our clients.  Here are some of the common challenges that small business entrepreneurs and leaders are facing:

  • Personal:  Feelings of being overwhelmed, stuck in the weeds, and/or no life/work balance
  • Interpersonal:  Lack of defined vision and alignment among team, and not maximizing talent
  • Business:  Lack of strategic planning process, culture of accountability, and goal execution

In working with entrepreneurs specifically, we hear from them that they can’t get their employees to care as much about the business as they do.  More clearly, they believe that without the level of risk that the entrepreneur is taking, the desire to succeed is not the same.  

The challenge of work/life balance is shared among entrepreneurs and executives alike.   As a result, many leaders suffer from pendulum swings in both arenas in an effort to try to keep up at both work and at home.  Of course, this just means that the leader is not achieving maximum results in either area and is usually experiencing unhappiness or stress in both areas.

The Solution
The 5-Step process we call the Velocity Leadership Success Model can be summed up with the acronym S.O.L.V.E.

S:  Survey & Analyze
O:  Open & Aware
L:  Learn & Grow
V:  Visualize & Execute
E:  Experiment

Each step has a number of components which are described below.  The steps cascade with one flowing into the next, and evolve from a personal development phase to a business development phase.  Each pairing of steps constitutes a phase as described here:

S + O = Personal Development Phase
O + L = Leadership Development Phase
L + V = Team Development Phase
V + E = Business Development Phase
E + S = Development Renewal Cycle

The flow of each step and how the phases are laid out can be seen with this initial visual draft of the Velocity Leadership Success Model.  A full-size version is available if you click on this image.


Personal Development Phase
The first two steps of Survey & Analyze and Open & Aware, or the Personal Development Phase, are the critical first steps that we take with the entrepreneur or business leader to get on solid ground before we charge off into any new business directions.  Often neglected and devalued, the Personal Development Phase affects all aspects of leadership and will ultimately define the business.  Equally important is the impact that this phase has on the personal happiness, well-being, and balance of the leader.  Skipping or rushing this step is a common and detrimental mistake many leaders make as the absence of self-understanding is often filled with stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, and poor performance.  Here are the components of each step:

Step 1:  Survey & Analyze

  • Complete the Velocity Leadership Intake Form
  • Begin initial weekly coaching sessions
  • Complete assigned Leadership Assessments:
    • Leader Life Review
    • Leader Strengths Survey
    • Leader Success Survey
    • Leader Values Assessment
    • Leader DiSC Assessment
    • Energy Leadership Index

Step 2:  Open & Aware

  • Develop Personal Core Values
  • Understand Signature Strengths
  • Increase Conscious Thought Monitoring
  • Build a Vision for Personal Growth
  • Develop Personal Leadership Goals
  • Analyze Desired Business Goals
  • Make a Commitment to Owning Outcomes

Leadership Development Phase
The second two steps of Open & Aware and Learn & Grow, or the Leadership Development Phase, is the time when the leader gets to exercise the skills learned in the Personal Development Phase by engaging his or her team to improve themselves.  Leadership can be defined in many ways, but one common description from many entrepreneurs is that true leadership allows others to believe in themselves so that they accomplish more than they ever thought was possible.  This is where the rubber meets the road between the leader and the rest of the team.  Here are the components of each step:

Step 2:  Open & Aware (see above)

Step 3:  Learn & Grow

  • Assess Team Members
    • Life Review Assessment
    • Strengths Assessment
    • Energy Leadership Index
    • DiSC Assessment
    • Professional Development
      • Understanding Interpersonal Communication Styles
      • Manipulating Personal Attitudes for Success
      • Improving Culture Through Communication, Accountability, and Focus
      • Individual Coaching for Team Members

Team Development Phase
The third pairing of steps consisting of Learn & Grow and Visualize & Execute, or the Team Development Phase, is the time when the leader engages the team beyond just personal development and includes them in the strategic planning process of the business.  Through a process of guided discovery, alignment, momentum, accountability and focus, the leader is able to create buy-in for company objectives that his or her team helps to create.  When a team is as invested in the success of the business as the leader, rapid growth is possible. Here are the components of each step:

Step 3:  Learn & Grow (see above)

Step 4:  Visualize & Execute

  • Professional Development for the Leader on the Topic of the Strategic Planning Process
  • Monthly Strategic Planning and Accountability Sessions
  • Weekly Pulse Checks with the leader by Phone
  • Creation of a One-Page Strategic Plan for the Quarter
  • Commitment from both the Leader and the Team to defined Meeting Rhythm
  • Build a Culture of Accountability that Drives Results

Business Development Phase
The fourth pairing of steps consisting of Visualize & Execute and Experiment, or the Business Development Phase, is the mature time of the planning process where the leader truly stops working in the business and starts working on the business.  Here, the leader can take a step back and see the whole forest (not just the tree blocking their view), and make strategic decisions about the direction of the business based on real data and live experience in the field.   Here are the components of each step:

Step 4:  Visualize & Execute (see above)

Step 5:  Experiment

  • Survey & Analyze Again to Determine Gaps in Performance
  • Determine What’s Working and What’s Not in the Quarterly Plans
  • Determine Who’s Working and Who’s Not and Build Plan for Next Steps
  • Provide Additional Professional Development to Address Culture or Skills
  • Provide Additional Coaching as needed for Team
  • Schedule Additional Quarterly Strategy Sessions

The Inspiring Speech Phenomenon
As a leader, have you ever attended a seminar or learning event where you heard an inspirational speech from another leader or entrepreneur where you walked thinking, “I need to immediately do that in my business!”?  And after getting back to the office and sharing your excitement, did you catch any of your team rolling their eyes?  And after a few weeks, did the “best idea you ever heard” lose its luster?  This is what we call the inspiring speech phenomenon.

By following a process that takes a leader from personal and leadership development to team and business development, we eliminate the inspiring speech phenomenon.  What you are left with instead is proven methods in the science of well-being, scientific assessment results, meaningful professional development curriculum, and the buy-in from your team on a strategic plan for your business.


Business Clarity

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Earlier this week, I discussed the importance of personal clarification on topics that help leaders have a consistent, authentic approach to their vision.  Click here to read more about the areas of life one must be clear about in or to be productive, happy, and successful. 

If the business leader is not clear on their personal items, they will ineffectively lead their teams by being inconsistent and unclear.  They will often produce mixed messages because they lack clarity on who they are or where they are going, often becoming distracted on their journey.

These mixed messages and personal unawareness make way for constant distractions all day long for your team.  A lack of clarity on the questions below means more struggles and less traction.

Points of Business Clarity:

Is your team clear on…

  • the roles within the company and who does what?
  • the “why behind” company goals and initiatives?
  • the company’s 5-year stretch goal?
  • the company’s vision for the future?
  • the company’s annual goals?
  • the company’s quarterly themes?
  • their daily/weekly activities and how it ties to annual goals and quarterly themes?
  • the company’s strategic planning process?
  • everyone’s communication and decision making styles?
  • the company’s culture?

If the team is not clear on these business categories, they will be consumed with distractions instead of opportunities.  Brandon Ames, an entrepreneur from Phoenix is fond of saying, “absent values and vision, you cannot differentiate between opportunity and distraction.”

Imagine each person on your team sitting in their own canoe on a lake, tied to each other by a rope.  They are facing in various directions and you instruct them to start paddling.  What happens?

Not much. 

Or worse – the strongest paddler eventually starts dragging the group in whatever direction pleases them.  In your business, who’s the strongest paddler? 

You are.  Which is why at times it can feel like you are dragging the team to achieve a goal.  You may be asking yourself why this is so hard, or why your team doesn’t care as much about the success of the business as you do. 

Imagine, instead, if when you told everyone to start paddling, they all instinctively turned to the same point on shore and with laser focus aggressively paddled in that direction. 

The key to business clarity and success is alignment, focus, accountability, and rhythmic communication. 

Future posts will tackle these topics.