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5 Ways to Foster Creativity in the Workplace

Creativity is the best way for your company to be more innovative. Innovation is what makes your company get the competitive edge in the business world. It will give an advantage for businesses not only in product development but also because it improves problem-solving skills that can help to make your business even smarter. Smarter businesses make more profits, keep employees engaged and happy, even improve employee health as a result. These are reasons why you need to foster creativity in the workplace. By reading on, you will learn how to foster creativity in the workplace to make your business even better.

Encourage Brainstorming Sessions

Everyone has their own way of looking at a problem, so it can be incredibly beneficial for everyone to get together as a group regularly. During these sessions, give everyone the opportunity to give their input on how to solve a problem. After everyone has stated their opinion on a topic, have a productive discussion among the group about which of the ideas are the best and can be accomplished by your company.

Take the ideas and group them into categories. You will actually find that there are groupings of ideas that go together. Then you can vote on each group and select the path forward as a group. Group selection creates group ownership. This is a powerful source of added accountability that stems from supporting what you yourself were a part of creating.

Celebrate and Activate Diversity

It can be a great idea to get a diverse group of people together when working on a project or problem. Be sure to mix up groups regularly to ensure that people who don’t normally get to work together to get some fresh ideas. Putting together people who think alike will not foster innovation or creativity in the workplace.

Get people started by discussing books in a book club, or party planning ideas, or any other random non-work related topic to get them comfortable to share their ideas. On important element is that there is no judgment, Just brainstorming, and open discussion. Judgment will shut down the creative process and people will be afraid to share their ideas and be put down if they feel stupid. It is often a good idea to set ground rules to support the process.

Sharing ideas will get things going and create a greater connection between the diverse group and will crush it with solving business problems together from that point forward.

Optimize the Workspace

There are things that you can do within the workplace that can make it more conducive for creativity. Create workspaces that are open and clutter free for your employees to stretch out and be comfortable, which is important to the creative process. You are not going to get as much of a freedom for creativity if you stick your employees in a cubicle by themselves for the entire workday.

You might think these young companies that have ping pong tables for their staff is crazy. They are just playing and not working. They may be playing but they are also working. It boosts their level of creativity, rejuvenates their energy and often they discuss business ideas while they are playing. Haven’t you ever had a great idea for something you were working on while you went biking, were in the shower or driving somewhere. The creativity comes out when you are more relaxed and not working so hard to make it happen.

Be Supportive

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As a manager, it is crucial that you are supportive of your employees if they are thinking outside of the box. This creative thinking is what will make your company stand out from the competition. Do not be judgmental or dismissive, otherwise, your employees will be too intimidated to share their ideas and creatively participate in the problem solving. Encourage your employees to be creative.

Also, make sure you allow them the time for innovation. Great companies such as Google, Microsoft, and apple appreciate the value of fostering creativity and innovation in the company and provide time and space for this to occur. If people are overloaded with project work and don’t have dedicated time to be creative, they won’t be. It is that simple.

Reward Creativity

Employees ultimately need to be offered incentives for their hard work and creativity. When an employee has solved a problem through their creativity, give them a reward that fits within the budget of your company and be sure to recognize the person and the idea across the company. This could be something as simple as a small gift card or tickets to a local event.

Daniel Pink in his book Drive talks about the drivers of motivation. He says that motivation works the opposite of what we think about compensation for non-menial tasks. Often monetary incentives for problem-solving can be counterproductive to their level of creativity. People want to solve problems. Perhaps the financial part is just a token but the real reward may be in giving them greater responsibility or a bigger role in further problem solving.

Here are some creativity quotes

  • Henry Mintzberg: “Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet.” As a manager, it is your responsibility to create an environment where creativity is encouraged and supported.
  • Maya Angelou:  “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
  • Steve Jobs:  “Creativity is just connecting things.”
  • Danielle LaPorte: “Doubt is part of the creative process.”
  • Erwin Raphael McManis “True Creativity does not come easy, it is born out of risk and refined from failure
  • Pablo Picasso: “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense;”
  • Sylvia Plath: “The worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt”
  • Peter Drucker: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
  • Einstein: “Creativty is seeing what everyone else has seen, and thinking what no one else has thought.”

These creativity quotes are just a few that represent what it takes to create innovation. A good manager understands that their employees have valuable ideas that can only make their company more innovative. Innovation is what makes a business thrive because they offer unique solutions to their customers’ problems. By following these tips, you will be able to foster creativity in the workplace.


SWOT or SOAR which is better?

Consultants have been using the SWOT Framework in strategy development for years to help bring clarity to the current situations in business strategies, sales structures and any area that you seek improvement. The Framework is to provide a 360-degree evaluation of the current situation based on your goals and objectives.

A new contender is all the rage. This framework is called SOAR and is said to be a replacement for SWOT. Really? Let’s have a look and see what the two frameworks represent and if SOAR is a real substitute for the age-old SWOT analysis used in most strategic planning processes.

What is SWOT:

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

This constellation is used to understand a 360 perspective of your current situation and have an honest look at your self or your organization to see what is in the gap between your current situation and where you want to go (your vision and goals).

What is SOAR?

Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results

This constellation is intended to be a strengths-based look at strategic planning and create as “to-be perspective versus an “as-is” perspective.

There is a whole movement around a strengths-based approach forged by Marcus Buckingham and Tom Rath. StrengthsFinder 2.0 and assessment focus peoples attention on their strengths and building out their strengths. It is important to know your strengths and build upon them and use them to excel. However, if you want to be the best you need to accurately access where you are with a 360 perspective and proactively mitigate weaknesses or utilize strategies that optimize your strengths.

Although we want to develop our natural talents, we also need to work with others and that may require us to develop compensating skills for those areas that we are not strong. Is it ok for the natural salesman to make the sale at all costs, creating unhappy customers due to lack of customer service and follow-up, breaking down teamwork, or breaking company policy? Is it ok for a natural visionary to drive his vision forward berating others and overspending because of his/her lack of detail In creating a realistic budget?

David M. Corbin Author of Illuminate: Harnessing the Positive Power of Negative Thinking shows the value of bringing the negative and weaknesses into awareness to use it to become better. Being proactive and anticipating challenges before they arise is strategic and must be part of the strategy process and leadership development.

Here are the flaws in the SOAR approach.

  1. Failure to consider the marketplace

SOAR is said to be a positive reframe on SWOT. Thinking positive and avoiding the reality is no always your best bet for identifying the gap in your action plan to reach your goals. SOAR does not consider what is happening in the marketplace fully without evaluating this part of the picture.

Believe me, I am all about positive thinking but you have to shine the light on what isn’t working too. Without it you are not making decisions based on reality.

2. Redundancy

Your goals already reflect your desired results. Aspirations are a form of your vision. Your vision is focused on where you want to be and has little reflection on your current status. The vision is already reflected in the opportunities you see because they are based on your goals and your vision. So including opportunities and aspirations is somewhat redundant and keeps you from the very perspective that SWOT was designed to do which is to illuminate the gaps through weaknesses and threats.

3. Missing the objective

The objective of this exercise is to identify the gap and create an action plan.

Consider a GPS that doesn’t have your current location. It just has the results and the possible roads that lead to that location. Some of those roads come from other locations that are not easily accessible from your location. There might be construction on one of the roads but without that information, you will end up waiting an excessive amount of time and have possibly missed the event you were headed to or delayed to such a point that there were no more seats left when you got there. Had you seen your options, you could have chosen to fly rather than drive as that might provide a better choice based on your current vehicle.

You cannot accurately assess the gap without getting clarity exactly where you are now in relation to the internal operations, product line, sales strategy and current team and other aspects for your business, the market, and the economy.

Although SOAR gives us another framework to utilize, in my expert opinion as a strategic business coach it is missing the point. In your strategic planning you cannot ignore what is happening in the market place, or the ‘as-is” state of your organization. These components play an important role in bridging the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Your can SWOT and SOAR but it isn’t advisable to SOAR without SWOTing.

Anytime you want to get clarity on where you are and close the gap, even in your time management strategies, understand your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) to come up with a customized action plan. Get into action.

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Interview Suzanne Yvette Seg 3 | Overcoming Mediocrity

Welcome Back to the last segment.  I am joined with Suzanne Yvette author, speaker and philanthropist.  Suzanne’s new book is coming out next February.  She is the co-author of Overcoming Mediocrity stories from courageous women.  The title of her chapter is called Accidental Courage.  Welcome back.

S:  Thank you Penny.

P:  Tell us about this book and the chapter that you have written.

Overcoming MediocrityS:  It’s a group of women that have written two books.  The first was about stories of women who have created lives of significance.  I met the publisher of this book and I actually know one of the authors in it.  I couldn’t wait to get my story out.  I had to get into the next book.  With some help I wrote my story.  I talk about the different aspects that I mentioned earlier.  Joining the military.  There are a couple things I talked about.  One was about being adopted.  Nobody loves you or I was given up.  I found out that I really was loved.  When I started to write my story, the theme I found was that I was accidentally courageous.  It was an eye opening expression.  I think all of us have accidental courage in us.  What do we actually write down?  What do we acknowledge? 

P:  That courage coming from our passion.  That passion might just to be to live.  Passion in all areas.  Its great when its accidental and even better when its conscious.  Creating that courage where and when we need to.  So, tell us where can listeners find out more about you and your current projects, how to get a copy of your book, where do they need to go?

S:  Suzanneyvette.com and that will give you an area in there to shop.  You will find my books there.  You can also contact me at Suzannegirlonfireworldwide.com and I would be happy to talk with you about any issues you might have.  How we can work together to support women’s empowerment. 

P:  This program you have is an amazing support for women. The challenges that women face.  I love again, the three areas:  the heart of a fighter, soul of a woman and body of a survivor.  It brings the woman to her challenges and she fights through them from survivor to thriver.  So, thank you so much for being on this show.  It was a great discussion to make people aware of the components of championship psychology and how it can really support us through the most challenging times.  I am so moved by your mission and how many people will be inspired to support or be supported as a result.  I just wish you all of the best and uh, I think also one last note is that I talk about the rubber band effect and these women you are helping have gone through some incredible and monumental challenges.  I believe in the rubber band effect, the greater the challenge, the greater the spring board to growth and fulfillment.  When you have the right resources to support you, you get that rubber band effect you can grow with leaps and bounds.  I know you have that in your heart and will help those women in a tremendous way.  Thank you so much for being here.

S:  It was a pleasure and I always enjoy speaking with you.  I would be happy to do it again.

P:  Thank you.  If you like what you heard today send us a message www.facebook.com/pennyzperscpective  on Twitter www.twitter.com/pennyzenker.  Any questions just post them to one of these sights.  Join us next week as we continue to provide you with amazing experts to help create Quantum Productivity.  This is Penny Zenker reminding you to take charge of your time and energy.  It is a choice you can feel good about.

5 Reasons You Are Not As Good of a Listener as You Thought

We all have two ears and one mouth and you would think that we would listen in that proportion to talking but we don’t. Not everyone is well-versed in the art of listening and how to master it. Actually, we are so busy today that we are caught up in the activity, we lose sight of the people. Busy makes us focus on what we did or where we are headed. Busy keeps us from being present.

active listeningNo matter if you are a parent, friend, sibling, manager, executive or employee, listening is crucial. In sales, it will determine your level of income. As an employee, it will determine your ability to do your job efficiently and effectively. As a manager or executive, it will determine employee engagement. As a parent, it will create the relationship you have with your family. Listening skills might very well be the most important skills you can develop to create even greater success.

Do they teach listening skills at school or at management training, sales training or executive training programs? Nope.

So let’s take a closer look at listening here. Feel free to bring this back to your corporate training programs, executive training, management training, sales training or any other training your company offers to incorporate listening into the program.

To start, there are two types of listening: active and passive.

Passive Listening:

What is passive listening? Passive listening is listening without reacting or responding, just allowing someone to speak, without interrupting. Not doing anything else at the same time.

This is a big challenge for many people today because we are so used to be constantly stimulated that you might experience an impulse to look at the thing moving in your peripheral or check your phone, remember something that happened earlier in the day and shift your attention.

Listening requires your full attention in the present moment.

Active Listening

What is active listening? Active listening takes passive listening to the next level. Active listening requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. You show your concentration with your body language and eye contact. Your understanding comes through clarification questions or repeating back what you heard with their words. When you refer to something they said another time or later in the conversation this is a further testament to your active listening.

Here are top 5 reasons that prevent you from active listening?

1.You are waiting to talk:

Sometimes when one person is talking, the other is formulating their statement. This means you are not listening. This can be considered competitive listening.

Sometimes in a conflict, I am emotional and trying to formulate my thoughts or when I am nervous to speak up at an event, I might be in my head thinking of what I will say, instead of listening. People can feel your presence or lack thereof when you are waiting to talk. They don’t feel heard. There is lost connection and then they tend to repeat themselves. I have learned that listening is an important part of me getting my message across so if I don’t listen, it takes longer.

2. You are distracted:

You allow your mind to drift to a previous moment, a moment in the future, or get distracted by your environment. As a result, you are no longer fully present.

I know I have a problem when I meet people at sports bars because my eyes and attention get diverted to the TV screens. If we aren’t there to watch the game, I either ask that we sit away from the TV acknowledging my distraction or pick a place that is quiet and we can have a focused conversation. Control your environment as well as your mind to stay connected.

3. You are judging:

You aren’t really listening if you are judging. This will distract you away from what they are saying or you may dismiss or misconstrue what they are saying because you may have unconsciously stopped listening to understand. Get in a curios state. I always ask “what do you mean by that” to avoid me interpreting what that might mean to them. When I can stay curious and seek to understand, the conversation hold a different energy, it is more open, more connected and more relaxed. That is a better energy for handling a conflict, don’t you think?

4. Inserting your opinion or advice:

Don’t interrupt a person before they are finished to impose whatever solution you feel is the best approach. Refrain from suggestions unless asked. People can

In the book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss FBI top negotiator, taught me that you know the other person feels heard when they say the magic words “that’s right”. Not “you’re right” but “that’s right”. So any variation of that “you got it”, that’s it” “Yes!” means that they have been received and felt heard. When they feel heard, then they will be open to listen. Without it, Chris Voss says – there is no negotiation.

Improve Listening skills

Want to find out what gaps you have in your listening skills? Yes, you probably have a few – if you are human. Ask a few people around you (in different areas of your life) how they would rate your listening skills. Yes, really! Tell them this is part of a self-development project and ask them to rate you on a scale from 1-10 (1 being the best). Then ask them how you could improve? What works best for them to feel heard? Do they like questions to be asked, repeat back what you heard, etc. Just going through this exercise with them will improve your relationship, because you care enough to ask.

This exercise was great for me. I opened up some powerful conversations with a few family members and at the office. I am now more aware of what contexts I have challenges in, and how to demonstrate my level of listening.

Here is a great podcast to listen to further explore the art of listening with Chris Lee and Lewis Howes.

The Art of Listening: How to Master Relationships Through Communication


When you start exercising active listening, you are going to notice vast improvements in both your professional and personal lives. You are going to be a better friend, spouse, parent, and employee thanks to these very important skills. Always keep working towards being a better active listener.

10 Must Read Books On Leadership

There are dozens and dozens of books cited by CEOs, corporate managers, and employees on what gets them motivated to lead the day. It can come in a novel, a self-help book, or a non-fiction story that may not even be business related, yet be adaptable to the businesses. Here is a short list of books about leadership that should be read by all.

Books On Leadership

  1. The Art Of War by Sun Tzu – This book, written in China, is 2000 years old. Why do we still read it? It may be about the military and approach war in Asia, but it can be easily applied to business strategy, strategies, and achievements. It will help you find solutions to disruptions in different areas of your life.
  2. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell – The business veteran gives real stories and practical application around the 21 laws of success and failures as a business leader. Mixing in scenes of politics, sports, religion, and war, Maxwell gives his own constitution to leadership. It is a must-read for all leaders.
  3. Start With Why by Simon Sinek – Business is not just about the products and services. They are about the purpose and connections those products create. Great brands understand this concept and lead from the heart rather than the head. Start with why and you will touch the hearts of employees and clients alike and create a strong community that supports and promotes the business.
  4. Drive by Daniel H. Pink – What you thought you knew about motivation will be challenged in this book. Daniel Pink brings us into the world of psychology where autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the real drivers to drive managers and employees to reach beyond their goals. If you want to be a better leader, you need to know what motivates others and what your role as a leader is in getting people motivated.
  5. First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham &Curt Coffman – This book is a major influence on management philosophy. The two authors, both of them Gallup analysts, write that the leading factors to a successful organization involve zeroing in on strengths and giving each employee the right feel to fit in perfectly. Stories and examples come from a study of over 80,000 managers and what they do differently.
  6. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey – This is a classic has been inspiring people for over 25 years. Shift your thinking around leadership, time management, and productivity. It is to be practiced in everyday life. Read this book one a year and condition these habits. Attaining success is about building character and the habits you practice will define you.
  7. Built To Last by James C. Collins & Jerry I. Porras – The authors did 6 years of research asking the question “What makes the truly exceptional companies different from other companies?” The result was a list of companies they defined as visionaries (Disney, Ford, Sony). They write those companies’ characteristics that led to massive success, sustainability, and leadership in each business sector.
  8. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink& Leif Babin – Using the lives of two Navy SEALs and their challenges through a mission gone wrong. The book details how they dug out of a hole and lead the way to survive and advance. It is all about leading in times of trouble at any given minute – which is what business leadership is about: taking a hold of a major problem and guiding them out of trouble.
  9. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin – This might not be a common choice on your leadership reading list but a great way to learn about great leadership is to study great leaders. Lincoln was a strong leader and this book dives into the start of President Lincoln’s presidency and how he brought in his critics within the Republican Party into his cabinet. Lincoln is widely considered the greatest President in American history and this book provides insight how he became a full-fledged leader in the darkest years of the country at all costs.
  10. The New One Minute Manager by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth H. Blanchard – This is an updated version of the classic “One Minute Manager”. The classic book focused on the principle of mentoring and coaching to be a good manager and teach others to manage. This updated parable demonstrates the same principles in today’s business environment. Focusing on the right motivators and providing direct feedback creates strong teams.

These are all books that strike at the source of what it means to be a leader. They come from different perspectives and give readers an unlikely view of what the world – or business – can be. These books are great for business book clubs, management training programs, executive training, leadership training and any venue designed to develop leaders personally and professionally.

Five Reasons Why Your Company Should Start A Book Club

A book club in a big company can be a great way to engage, connect, and deepen trust within your team or across departments. Having a book club is a chance to create intelligent and purposeful interactions, create new partnerships, share opinions, and improve overall communication by everyone involved. The book may be a topic to challenge, to connect, or to engage the group and it may or may not be one of choice. A book club forces members to reflect and interact in a different way. Learning another person’s background and opinions and allow them to share their point of view, open to different perspectives, and to trust and care for co-workers in a new way. It gives each person to be expressive with no hierarchy or agenda.

Here are five reasons to why your company should start a book club.

1. Connect Co-Workers

You know the views and opinions of your best friends, but rarely do you get the opportunity to have more intimate and authentic discussions like this with your co-workers. Perhaps, those on different floors have only shared the elevator or passed in walking through a floor other than their own. Yet there are interactions across departments in various forms. Gaining valuable perspectives from the diverse team of people you work with will create a greater connection to those people, greater respect, increase the level of trust and create a higher level of sensitivity while working with one another. Co-workers that like one another, work more effectively and efficiently together.

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success , people who live the longest result not from healthy living but from a sense of belonging. He studied a town in Roseto, Pa, a town entirely made up of citizens who came from the village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy. The study showed that the people had a feeling of trust and security among Rosetans because the people of the town always had someone they knew and who knew them to turn to for support. They concluded that the extraordinary health of this unique population could only be explained in terms of “extended family” and “community.”

Greater connection creates a strong community.

2. Create a sense of belonging

Book clubs are inclusive, allowing each member to participate and share their views. This creates a greater sense of belonging to the group. A sense of belonging is a basic need that builds confidence, trust, and connection.

In addition, Kelly McGonigal the author of “The Upside of Stress”, reveals a study that was done with college students. Freshman drop-out rates are above 50%. A study was done to show the impact on the drop-out rate as a result of making students feel a greater sense of belonging through support, connection, and engagement. The study group resulted in a reduction of that drop-out rate by more than 50%.

People who feel like they belong and they matter to the organization, are more engaged and take a higher level of ownership in their work and the results they are creating. They develop a “do what it takes attitude versus a “whatever” attitude. Bad stress goes down and good stress goes up to create a greater sense of contribution.

3. Create Inspiration
Fiction and non-fiction books on multiple themes, genres, and subjects can stir the thinking brain and grab a topic never thought of before.

People get stuck and sometimes all they need is a little inspiration or a shift in perspective to get them unstuck. An open discussion around a powerful book can be a huge inspiration to spark new ideas, outside of the box thinking, innovation, efficiencies, new approaches and more.

Inspiration often comes from getting outside of your current way of thinking and your environment and connecting thoughts from others, developments in other industries and stories about people that create new connections in our minds.

4. De-Stressing
Work can create stress and we need more ways to get rid of it. We can walk around and work out but getting into your heart and out of your head – can be a great way to relieve stress. Conversations around issues in the office can be therapeutic in this structured way like a therapy session. People can work together to find solutions to common issues using a strategy from one of the books that they read together and share perspectives on how these strategies can help reduce stress, improve efficiency and make the environment more fun.

The benefits of reducing stress at work will increase productivity, improve communication, elevate health, and improve relationships both inside and outside of the business environment.

5. Management Training
Make it mandatory to utilize what they have learned and apply it in their work. Get creative in getting all the above accomplished within this form of training. Instead of the usual course days that are often forgotten the day after the course. Engage the application of the principles they learn in the books over time in smaller chunks. Productivity will increase due to a focus on implementation, connection, and inspiration.

Billionaires can list multiple books to recommend that are fictional for influencing their decisions. Bill Gates cites Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger. Jeff Bezos cites The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Just about every other major business innovator supports I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Books can open minds. Isn’t that why we tell children to read, to expand their thoughts and minds? Adults in major corporations should too.


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