When a leader is looking for some new ideas they will usually bring the team together for a brainstorming session. Depending on the leader, there are two outcomes that this session can have. The first example is what the leader should avoid doing. The leader says that they want new ideas, but they shoot them down right away. Take a look at one of my favorite clips from the TV show “The Office” The Golden Ticket Episode. Have you ever been part of a session like this before? This is a good example of how a leader’s words can impact the morale of the group and cause people to shut down. No one will want to share new ideas if the leader isn’t listening to them and being open.
Now let’s talk about one that is much more effective. A really good leader will prepare for the session and display some traits that will help the brainstorming process be a success. One person doesn’t have to drive all of the new ideas. A brainstorming session works well because an idea from one person will usually spark a new idea for someone else. Before you know it, you have a bunch of new ideas.
What should the leader do?
- Set the tone for the session and make it relaxed and fun to drive more creativity
- Be clear with the goal of the session and explain the process that will be used
- Be open to whatever is shared – there are no bad ideas
- Ensure your body language and tone of voice are open as well
- Listen to the ideas and ask for clarification if you need it,
- Don’t debate the idea especially if it is one that you really like
- Make sure that people are being honest and not just telling you what you want to hear
- Ensure that everyone is getting an opportunity to participate in the discussion
What is needed for the session?
- Set aside 1-2 hours for the session and let the team know what will be happening
- Find a space that is creative – this may be going somewhere outside the office or to a conference room, but moving things around to make it a more open space
- Use post it notes in different colors for people to capture their ideas (if you have remote workers ask them to send their ideas over in email and ask a group member to capture their ideas on post it notes for them)
- Let them walk around the room and place their post it notes until the appropriate topic areas that you have laid out for the session.
- Discuss as a group and create action plans for how you want to move forward with those ideas
What happens after the session?
- Don’t lose the momentum from the meeting. Divide the group up to focus on some of the top ideas.
- Ask them to drive the actions forward and come back to the larger group with status updates.
- Give them opportunities to share these ideas with your management team which provides great exposure and develops their executive presence.
The role of the leader and the preparation are the keys to ensuring a great brainstorming session. Have fun with it. There is always more creativity that occurs when people are relaxed and having a fun. Ensure the team gets to “own” the ideas and the actions to execute them. Remember that you are developing them to be innovative, solve problems and drive for results. This will help you create a stronger more engaged team and empower them to drive change for your group as well as the organization.
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