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Influential Leader: Getting the Most Out of Your Team

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

"The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow."- Seth Godin


Finding ways to get the most out of staff is a constant struggle for business owners and managers who are constantly told different things and given more information. One minute is a clever idea to incentivize staff with potential bonuses, rewards, and rewards; following the advice is wrong. How do you know what to believe and what do you do for the best? And why is there so much disagreement in the first place?

Motivating Your Team

As it happens, the question comes down to how you define motivation. It turns out incentives are more damaging than helpful when encouraging creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. There is, of course, more than one type of motivation, and as the needs of the organization vary, the best ways to get more out of staff change too.

And to understand why this is the case, we need to break things down further and examine precisely what creativity means. How do you define creativity? How do you measure the problem? Solving ability?

While opinions vary on this matter, one aspect generally agreed to be indicative of broader creativity and critical thinking skills is functional fixedness.' This term refers to the ability or inability that we must think of objects in ways other than their intended use. So, if you were to take a hammer, for instance, functional fixedness would be the 'cognitive bias that prevented you from using it to scratch your back. It is a hammer, not a back scratcher.

A great demonstration of this flaw in our thinking is called 'the candle box experiment.' Here participants are given a box of tacks and a candle, and they are asked to attach the candle to the wall so it can burn while poised there.

Most people will try to tack the candle to the wall, which will meet with disaster. Still, after a while, they will start to think of alternative solutions, at which point they get over their functional fixedness, realize that the box itself is a valuable resource, and then tack that to the wall to stand the candle in.

This is relevant to this discussion because incentives and external motivation have made participants slower to produce the solution.

Motivation can create stress as you must amp yourself up to work towards the reward. This, in turn, can result in a kind of 'tunnel vision' as you approach your work – focused hard on the task at hand.

Conversely, creativity appears most likely to occur when we step back and relax. This, in turn, helps us to allow our minds to wander and see more connections between disparate ideas. And many believe that this is what creativity is the ability to combine unconnected ideas and combine them in unique new ways. This, in turn, helps us to allow our minds to wander and see more connections between disparate ideas. Ther studies show that a sense of ownership and pride in their work can also help to encourage staff to be more creative and original with their thinking while allowing discourse between team members to incubate the generation of innovative ideas.

So, if you want your staff to supply data entry, you can help them by providing rewards. Because this kind of role does not require creativity, that will be a suitable method! For other more creative tasks, however, it may be better to help them relax, take a step back, and supply a safe space to work their absolute best.


If stress can dampen creativity and prevent your team from producing their best work, the logical alternative is to reduce stress for your team as much as possible.

What being a leader means is taking responsibility. That, in turn, means you need to take the dispute. And that's a massive part of what it means to be a leader.

The lousy leader will shout at their staff when things are going badly and blame them – for their failure to take responsibility.

This is even though the lousy leader will micromanage every tiny decision and leave the team with no freedom.

But a good leader will let the team work in the way they do best and then take the blame from upper management when things do not go to plan. Why? Because when your staff feels as though they are protected and safe, that is when they can do the best work. We have already seen how this can improve creative problem-solving, but of course, it also helps to improve work satisfaction and generally ensure that your team is happy working away.

Being a leader ultimately means taking the hit and being willing to sacrifice your sanity for theirs!

For Parents

Parents can benefit the most of all from this tip. One of the most important things to do as a parent is to supply a source of unconditional love and physical safety.

By meeting your child's most basic needs like this, you give them the confidence to explore, learn, and make their own mistakes. A child who receives nothing but love and encouragement will have the confidence to venture out, try new things, and express themselves. This will ultimately lead to a far more even development that makes them fully functioning adults someday!

In many ways, you can consider the role of a manager as something similar. You supply “unconditional love" by creating a warm, team environment that protects the staff from the harsh outside realities of your organization.

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