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Keeping your team innovative requires leadership finesse

January 18, 2018
Borderless Leadership

Although often draped in HR-y words like “retention,” the success of your team is entirely in your hands. Their ability to execute on your vision is a choice that you make, and knowing how to leverage their strengths based on who they are will revolutionize your approach to leading your team.

The Challenge

I count myself among a growing group of entrepreneurial CEOs. We work crazy hours, want to create constantly and are eager to solve problems.

Entrepreneurial CEOs have special challenges when it comes to leading their team. There’s a constant level of change within their organizations. And, although your team knows that there is a dull roar of constant new ideas, this level of chaos can be difficult for your team to maintain for any length of time.

Your Team’s Change Types

We love the intensity. We love the 16-hour days. We love the after-10 p.m. energy bursts. We love fresh ideas and incorporating new ones into current work. A new opportunity is around every corner!

In the world of change types, we are usually very tolerant of change. We’re Independents. Independents are driven by self-determined goals and enjoy the flexibility of that lifestyle.

The humans that make up your team are drawn to your vision, charisma and big ideas. But they aren’t the same. They tend to prefer order. They are steadfast, literally toiling to make us (and the organization) successful. They put up with our crazy schedules and need to do things a certain way. They all look at each other and shake their heads and smile after you blow in and then right back out of the room.

They are often Connectors or Organizers, and they seek to create order from the chaos in which entrepreneurial CEOs thrive.

Connectors are the inertia behind a corporation’s culture. They’re the ones who pay close attention to the sentiment of the general group. They’re the ones who watch out for each other and organize potlucks and holiday parties.

Organizers are driven to understand the world through intellect or reasoning. They are not as in-tune with the general group in that they don’t mind standing out or making choices that might not be popular.

You’ll likely have a few Fixers in the mix, too. Fixers are the ones who work the hardest to make your crazy enthusiasm resonate with the rest of the team. They enjoy having options but are driven by serving others.

The trick about Fixers, though, is that they might burn out fast if you keep switching directions too quickly. It’s hard to help the team head off down one path, just to have you drag them back off down another road. Fixers will feel unappreciated and out of sync unless you keep them apprised of what is going on in your head.

The How

The entrepreneurial CEO needs to be able to motivate and nurture her people over the long-term. Because, if we’re honest, we don’t particularly like spending our time on mundane matters such as hiring new personnel or dealing with interpersonal office conflict.

Humans go through a predictable transition when going through a change. A big part of that transition results in creativity and new idea generation. When you achieve that innovation state, you want to keep people there. But, the secret about keeping people in that phase is that the team will have a lot more ups and downs because some ideas will work out great and some will be stinkers. It is essential to manage your team with finesse in this dynamic environment.

First and foremost, you must have an overall target at which you’re shooting. If you are planning a zoo one day and then starting a wellness program the next, it’s just too much change for most people to take on. Have your goal firmly in mind: your end game.

After your end game is sorted, your team will be creative and willing to come along for the ride, as long as you don’t go counter to their needs or feed into their fear.

Here are some concrete ways that you can support your people, based on their change type:


Let them figure some stuff out for you. They thrive on flexibility and helping, so show them that you trust them to do it. After establishing the project goal, let them go forth and do good work.

Keep them in the know of changes in thought or direction as early as possible, and let them help you figure out how to move forward.


Do not single them out, and do not give them things to sort out that would mean they will be separate from the team. Give them assignments that depend on working with others in the group.

Connectors are your best team members for nurturing client relationships and for predicting and taking care of problems before they happen.


Give them projects that require intellect and organization. Ask them to give a report on statistics that no one else wants to dig into. They don’t mind being singled out, so they are great at working independently.

Organizers tend to have lower EQ, although that doesn’t mean they are hopeless. They might just have a harder time identifying with those who do not value data and practical solutions.

The first challenge is always finding those people — the talented ones who are drawn to us and are willing to live in our crazy world. The most important thing in the world for us, then, should be leading them in a way that supports our own big goals but also honors their skills and talents. By supporting their change types, you will not only create a high-performing team, but you will achieve your goals faster, allowing you to take on the next big thing. And your team will be right there at your side, getting you there.

By Dr. Rachel MK Headley

Source: Forbes

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