Be the spark that enables your team
“I’ve always thought it was my job to be the spark and the gasoline for my team, but now I realize that it’s actually not.”
A really great leader said this to me during a conversation last week. It’s been bouncing around in my head ever since. A simple concept at first, but stop and think about it: How many leaders feel the pressure of being both the “spark” and the “gasoline” in their organizations?
The original focus of our conversation was around getting a sales team pumped up to face another quarter after a particularly difficult month. My leader-friend was talking about the need to spark some energy in his team at their monthly meeting. He had a plan for the spark, but he felt a weight around how to be the fuel to keep that fire burning in them.
This is common among leaders. Bearing the weight of determining and communicating WHAT is important (the spark) and also HOW it will be accomplished (the gasoline) quickly becomes overwhelming for any leader. If projects stall when the leader isn’t around to constantly fuel them, enablement (or the lack thereof) is often the cause.
inVision CEO John Ferris has taught me that it’s the leader’s job to determine WHAT is important; it’s the team’s job to determine HOW to achieve it. In the past I would have thought this to be one of those great quotes that sounds like a solid philosophy but nearly impossible to implement in reality. This is where Innovation Engineering comes into play for me.
After attending Innovation Engineering College at the end of October, on my way to becoming a certified Innovation Engineering Black Belt, I realized that I had finally found a system that would allow leaders a process to gain radical clarity on what was important and enable their people to successfully come up with and deliver the results. IE provides a freedom within the framework, enabling leaders to set the spark and step back as the team’s fuel of innovation, creativity, and commercialization transforms the organization.
To truly enable our teams to be their own source of energy, innovation, and action, we have to draw them into the process of determining the HOW. Through the process of Innovation Engineering, the leader can focus on being the spark that ignites the team, while the team becomes responsible for keeping that momentum going. The energy is shared between the leader and their team, and real growth is the result.