Driving the implementation side of ideas is absolutely critical. Earlier on the Thrive Blog I wrote that the true value in creativity is in execution. Without execution and implementation, ideas really have nothing to offer us. Creativity in itself contributes very little to the bottom line and does nothing towards accomplishing our vision for the future. Leaders must have the ability to lead through ideas and effectively execute to add value. While we may be in a bit of an arms race for “idea people”, what organizations should really be in an arms race for is “idea implementers”. We all have ideas. Getting them done is the hard part.
Here are five leadership tips for effectively implementing ideas:
TAKE THE LOW HANGING FRUIT: Implementing ideas can be overwhelming. Sometimes the creative project or innovative concept that you are tasked with can seem to suck up your time like a dry sponge. If you aren’t careful you’ll stop to look around after a few weeks and realize you haven’t really accomplished anything concrete. The fuel the drives implementers is concrete progress. Don’t deprive yourself of this. Be sure to carve out time in your week and practically implement some easy ideas. Keep a list of those projects you can knock out of the park and be sure to get some of those done each week. This visible progress will help keep your energy up for the long haul innovations.
BE RELENTLESS: No matter how much you vision cast, no one cares about your idea more than you do. You’ve got to own it. Even if it has been assigned to others officially or broken out into a project, don’t let it go. Be relentless in diving people forward. You’ve got to keep it in front of them. Keep casting the vision. Keep checking in. Keep your energy up. It often will get a bit uncomfortable in the moment. People will start to feel like you are “always on their case about it”. You’ve got to walk that line. Be a team player, trust your team, but never get comfortable. Always keep pushing to deliver. Stay out in front.
YOU STOP, YOU SINK: When you are driving through larger innovations or creative ideas you have got to keep things moving forward. Nothing will kill your idea faster than stagnation. Stagnation is where ideas go to die!! You have to be keenly aware of this as a leader. Even if all you can do is take small steps forward, keep things moving. If you have to leave a person behind, just move past them. If you are massively stuck on a detail, move around it. Momentum is king. Loose it and your idea will either die or just get put on everyone’s back burner. It’s hard to keep moving, but it’s much more difficult to get moving again.
IDENTIFY WHAT MATTERS: When you’re driving an idea through implementation it inevitably effects more things than you anticipated. Often it will require others to change on some level to support the idea, or maybe it is more change on your end than you anticipated. The important thing to note is that you won’t win every conflict. Some change won’t happen. Some things won’t move. Sometimes you just hit a roadblock. You’ve got to know what is critical to success and what isn’t. Know your non-negotiable items and fight those battles to the death. Also, know what is negotiable and don’t waste your precious time and energy on them. Driving ideas and creativity to implementation is going to require flexibility. The key is to be very candid with yourself about what matters and what doesn’t. Fight for what matters and let go of what doesn’t.
VISION LEAKS: This concept has been around, but I was first introduced to it by Bill Hybels. The idea is this, if you view people as buckets that must be filled with vision than you also must know that these buckets have holes in them. As time goes on the vision leaks out. You fill them up, but there is always a slow leak. I might add that often the more difficult the road, the faster the vision seems to leak. People quickly begin to forget why the are pushing this idea forward. They forget why it matters. Even if the idea is something exclusive to you alone, your own vision leaks. We have to consistently remind ourselves and those around us of the vision. Be acutely aware of the vision level of those you are leading. When they seem to be loosing their way a bit, paint the picture again.
Making ideas happen, developing creativity, and driving innovation is tough work. It takes a massive amount energy and a disciplined focus. It takes skilled leadership to take something from concept to completion. Be sure to keep your energy positive by taking the low hanging fruit every so often. Additionally, be relentless with your focus and always keep the momentum going. Know what is core to success of the idea, and always keep the vision fresh. These tips will help you become a leader that can drive ideas and add value.