The theme of the 2017 ASAE Annual Meeting, which took place earlier this month in Toronto, was “Inspire,” and that’s exactly what it did. The event inspired new thinking, new ideas and new conversations.
Attendees were also able to take home some valuable lessons in leadership from influential thinkers who shared their stories and experiences.
Here are three of the top takeaways to get you thinking about the way you lead your people and your organization.
1. Ideas can and should come from anywhere and everyone.
Innovation expert and opening keynote speaker Nilofer Merchant told attendees, “Ideas are fuel for innovation.” And those ideas – the ones that are going to move your organization into the future – are going to come from individuals at all levels.
As a leader, be on the lookout for what each person on your team can bring to the table. Merchant calls it each individual’s “onlyness” – that distinct perspective that each person has that allows them to contribute unique value and solutions.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that a person has to be in a position of power to share an idea. In reality, most ideas – up to 99 percent according to some studies Merchant referenced – come “from left field.” In other words, status or a seat at the table is no longer a prerequisite for problem-solving.
2. Change happens one step at a time.
Game Changer series speaker Major Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar challenged the Pentagon’s policy barring women from serving in combat, winning women the right to serve on the front lines for the first time in history. It wasn’t a change that came easy, however.
Hegar, the author of “Shoot Like a Girl,” said in order to bring about change, you have to first have credibility. It’s not enough just to be right, you have to be an example of who you’re advocating for, demonstrate you have the skills required and have lived what you’re fighting for.
Leaders need to share their experiences and be the change they want to see. That change won’t come overnight, but by exemplifying confidence, showing empathy and understanding, and not forgetting your reasons why you do what you do, you can continue to lead others on the right path.
3. It’s not what you say, but how you say it.
Speaker Galen Emanuele with Shift Yes shared how leaders can use the main tenets of improv comedy – say yes, listen, make others look good, embrace change and be positive – to build a culture where all ideas and people are respected in “Create a ‘Yes, And’ Team Culture.”
By listening and being more intentional in our conversations we create a culture that is open and engaged. That kind of culture makes people in your organization feel able to bring forward new, out-of-the-box ideas – even if they are ideas that won’t work.
It is possible to say yes to a person, but no to an idea, Emanuele said. In most cases, it’s not as important if you say yes or no, but how you say yes or no. By letting your team know that you value them as people, along with their contributions, you can create an atmosphere where ideas flourish.