Wolf Pack

Ask your staff to kill their darlings

Dan Fine, Practice Development

By Dan Fine, Business Adviser at Hive Business

When the Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner said “in writing, you must kill all your darlings” he was warning us not to be precious with our good ideas because we lose our objectivity that way.

You have to be able to kill your darlings in any creative process, even making money (which contrary to popular belief is a very creative vocation), and in my experience the biggest hindrance to success in business is that people would rather be right than effective.

How often have you seen the following scenario? A manager builds a plan, pitches it to the team and the team nods along. A few months later nothing has happened. The manager feels confused and exasperated, but not surprised, and steps in with a sense of righteous indignation/ self-pitying martyrdom to personally handle the project.

Where did it go wrong? The team isn’t ‘bad’ per se, the problem is the culture — the manager has taught everyone to lean on them and the team members have got so used to this they simply don’t feel personally accountable any more.

Maybe that serves the manager’s needs — it’s nice to feel needed — but on the other hand it fosters passivity, dependency and apathy among the team. Think about the most boring lessons you had at school, the ones taught by supremely unengaging teachers that you had to mentally recede from, like a patch of bad weather in the day’s schedule, to stay sane.

It’s not acceptable for your team members to be feeling that about their manager, but it’s not their fault if they do. If a manager doesn’t expect team members to take ownership and responsibility for their own world, and instead gives orders and jumps in to carry them out, there is a blockage in the creative process.

Unblock it by providing team members with the space to think for themselves. How does that look? The manager pitches his objective (not his plan) and invites the team to go away and research possible solutions. He invites them to put their own ideas forward (to be possibly killed off).

That’s what creation is, it’s an iterative process that means nothing when imposed on you from above, but potentially everything when you’re fuelling it with your own ideas and — critically — you are prepared to be vulnerable enough to present ideas that might not make the cut.

Get your team to engage with this process because that’s how they become engaged in your business. It’s so obvious when this happens, patients can tell as soon as they walk through the door and talk to any member of staff.

People want to care about what they do, they want work to become a positive part of their identity that they feel good about. If you let them you won’t just get rid of apathy, your business will make better decisions and it will grow faster. We can help you develop a culture of creativity in your business, get in touch on 01872 300232 or email [email protected] if you’d like to know more.

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