DJHP / Leaders
Companies often believe innovation comes from the individual — a notion likely stemming from the startup space. A fledgling company starts disrupting the marketplace, and the big guys on the block look to the founder as the source of the disruption.
While the brainchild might be the individual’s, it doesn’t end with him or her. The true source of innovation came from a network of people, all working together toward a common goal. And that’s exactly how you should approach your leadership if you hope to encourage innovation within a team.
Here are six ways I’ve found to be successful in encouraging innovation:
1. Trust your team. It’s easy to go in and micromanage a project. You came up with it after all. But this does nothing to encourage innovation.
Trust the people you brought together enough to let them take the reigns and run with it.

In fact, your trust in them allows the team to trust themselves and trust each other. This can then lead to greater transparency, promoting self-expression among the group and a group think-tank that brings out the best in one another.
2. Build in diversity. Some of the most productive and innovative teams are also the most diverse. Pull together people with different backgrounds and capabilities to create cross-specialty teams.
The diversity can encourage out-of-the-box thinking to solve problems in more innovative ways.

What’s more, the diverse approaches to business can push forward innovation in a more efficient manner.
3. Flatten hierarchy. Teams often become much more nimble when allowed to work with some level of autonomy. This agility helps position an organization to better respond to change and foster innovative thought. Flatten the hierarchy of your teams, while making sure to clarify roles and decision-making processes. Not having clearly defined roles or a process to handle more difficult decisions can lead to someone pulling rank, thereby creating an informal hierarchy within the group.
4. Clarify project goals. If a team doesn’t know the ultimate destination, how do you expect them to ever get anywhere? Provide direction for your team by establishing clear project goals. But seeing that day-to-day diversions, like emails or phone calls, can draw focus, tie those goals to a timeframe. By limiting time, you actually remove distractions and bring everyone onto the same page to see the project through from start to finish.
5. Provide the tools. Offer up enough time in their schedules and the technology necessary to see the project through to fruition. If you don’t, there’s no way to innovate — let alone do their jobs.
6. Let them go. Resist the urge to insert yourself into the group. Get out of their way. It’ll better support innovative thought. Of course, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t keep tabs on progress. It’s completely appropriate to ask for status updates. But don’t get too involved unless it’s necessary. Sometimes, you’ll need to course correct to perfect, so ask yourself what needs to change to sustain growth and project momentum.
7. React appropriately. Going hand-in-hand with #6, watch your reactions during updates. How you react to both successes and failures sets the tone for the team moving forward, and it could very well stifle growth and progress.
There are plenty of obstacles already in the way of innovation. Don’t be one of them. Reconsider what it means to “work” for you. Taking a different approach to leadership can impact the agility and creativity of your team, going so far as to create an environment that doesn’t just encourage but sustains innovation.

Dr. Jan HoistadLead Coach. Business Development Consultant. Thought Leader. Entrepreneur. Author. Dr. Jan Hoistad is passionate about helping professionals, business owners, partners, and teams develop the skills necessary to achieve success and fulfillment in both their occupational pursuits and personal lives.With 35 years of experience, Dr. Hoistad has been a pioneer in the field of professional coaching. She’s advised countless CEO’s, executives, business group heads, emerging leaders, partners, teams, and professionals in career transition and business development, teaching them how to dig deep, and sometimes loosen up, so they can start living by their values, finding their purpose, and achieving their professional and personal goals with intent and confidence.By helping professionals see that personal wholeness is a means to achieving optimum professional performance, Dr. Hoistad provides her clients the tools to become catalysts for change in their own businesses, careers and lives. They learn to leverage their strengths, build on their expertise, and expand their influence to become true innovators in their fields.
Dr. Jan Hoistad