All around the world and in every industry, we’re accustomed to celebrating creativity. We lavish praise on those whose creative achievements bring us joy, improve our lives, and change the way we see the world. And thanks to recent research, we’re more aware than ever of creativity’s benefits — not only for society, but for our individual well-being.
But it’s one thing to be creative, and another to help others tap into their own creativity.
It takes a special kind of leader to do this — you can’t be creative for someone else. What you can do, however, is create conditions that allow your team to access their own creativity — and then unleash it in ways that can improve their performance and morale, and shape a thriving culture of innovation.
As a manager, you have a unique opportunity to encourage your direct reports to stretch themselves in creative ways — and to understand that innovators are not born, they’re made. Employees may need permission to be truly creative. And they may need your reassurance, if taking a creative risk doesn’t pay off immediately, to keep going.
It’s all about the messages you send to your team — everything from how you speak and act to how you run meetings and give feedback. Here are a few simple ways you can help your employees unleash their creativity:
1. Assign a long-term project
Many projects need to be managed, with strict deadlines and frequent check-ins. But if you sense potential for deeper, more creative work from a particular individual or team, assign a longer-term project with more leeway and fewer boundaries. Make clear that you’re looking for work that hasn’t necessarily been done before.
2. Tap into unseen talent
If you learn about a direct report’s talent, skill or interest that goes beyond their job description, encourage them to apply it to their work. When they feel a creative connection to what they do, they’ll be more likely to innovate, excel and inspire others to take their work to a higher level.
3. Celebrate your quiet creators
While it’s important to praise those who get results, it’s also vital to nurture team members whose contributions are more creative — and less directly connected, on the surface, to the core business. In team meetings, group emails and other communications, make a point to celebrate these team members and help others see how their creativity enriches everyone’s work.