In attempt to spice up some of my Mondays and bring to life my dad’s love of mascot names, I have decided to take a peek at different mascots around the country (and maybe the world) in frequent installments called Mascot Mondays. Since I missed last Monday and will probably miss the following Monday, due to the Holidays, today’s post will be for both. So…anyway, a Google search defined a mascot as, “A person or thing that is supposed to bring good luck or that is used to symbolize a particular event or organization.” At Wazzu, I was a fairly normal mascot (Butch. T. Cougar), but I hope to discover some not so normal good luck bearers going forward.
UC Santa Cruz has one of the most amusing and awesome (according to my father) mascots: The Banana Slug. UC Santa Cruz wanted more inclusive physical education and recreational programs and according to the UC Santa Cruz website, “The students’ embrace of such a lowly creature was their response to the fierce athletic competition fostered at most American universities.” While the mascot name does not foster fear, in certainly does well at symbolizing a more welcoming environment and as one of their T-Shirts states: “Banana Slugs-No Known Predators.”
Kids are naturally creative. If left to their own devices with crayons, paint—even a cardboard box, wonderful things often blossom. So what happens as we get older? Many people think kid “lose” that creativity. However, it’s really the grownups who take it away from them—and that’s a real shame.
Think about it. As adults we tend to mold our kids, push them in certain directions, and stifle their natural creative instincts. And it starts early with statements like:
“Don’t color outside the lines.”
“You didn’t do it like I told you to.”
“That’s not how it’s ‘supposed’ to be done.”
“Stop running around and sit still!”
I’m sure you can remember others that were told to you as a child. In an effort to keep life on an even keel, we force our children to conform their activities to a strict set of procedures. And eventually, it beats them down. They start to doubt themselves. They interact less—and even become fearful in certain situations. This isn’t something that just “happens” to them; it’s inflicted upon them.
Spend time with very young children, and you’ll soon notice that they default to happy. They sing at the drop of a hat. They skip rather than trudge. And as a parent I think we need to encourage this—not penalize it—because that creative spontaneity is sorely needed in the adult world of business. Why? Because innovation springs from creative thought. When a child is happy and relaxed rather than stressed, they think better and learn faster. They’re also nicer to people and build stronger relationships.
The same thing happens in business. Companies that create stressful environments, and stifle creativity, are not known for innovation. When employees are shot down for offering up new ideas often enough, they simply stop offering them. They learn not to rock the boat—to just get by and collect a paycheck—and also protect their turf (which doesn’t lead to good relationship-building… or strong, innovative, thriving organizations!)
On the other hand, companies that are always innovating generally have a much more energized set of employees because they have a less rigidly structured environment. They create the space and time for people to doodle, daydream and collaboratively think up out-of-the-box ideas. They reward those ideas—even if they fail—because they understand that it’s essential to encourage that type of thinking in order to keep innovations happening.
For instance, in Google’s ITO program (Innovative Time Off), employees spend 80% of their time on core projects, and about 20% on company-related innovation activities that interest them personally, and it has been a huge success. In fact, it’s reported that Gmail, Google News and AdSense were products that originated from the ITO program.
Another organization that encourages innovation is Adobe. The company created an entire division devoted to innovation, and developed a leadership position dedicated to championing innovation at all levels within the company.
These are just two examples of companies that “get it” and understand the importance of unleashing creative thinking in the workforce. There’s no doubt in my mind that more companies need to shift their culture to encourage the natural creative instincts of their employees. However, as a parent, I think that nurturing creativity must start at home. We need to be mindful of how our actions will forever shape the way our children interact with the world. Let’s encourage them to be spontaneous, creative and joyful. Who knows what innovations they’ll dream up?
And as employees we need to start a revolution of creative thought, empower our co-workers and subordinates to freely express ideas and truly jump into the creative process. We need to push this up to the c-suite and help them to understand the value. Social Media, internal and external to the organization, can help us do that in ways we never could before. Let’s make 2013 the year of opening up the floodgates to creative and innovative thought… at home, at work, and at play.
Social has taken away numerous connection barriers within the workplace, giving companies more direct access to not just push information out to their employees, but to actively engage in ongoing conversation with them and allow them to do the same. All the talk I see is about consumer engagement reaching out and creating conversation with customers and potential customers, but how about with those even more important… your employees, co-workers, and yes, even the dreaded C-Suite.
“Fear has to be left at the door, and social platforms where your employees already live can be leveraged in this respect.”
Companies often forget about their employees and do not realize that not only are they their most valuable asset from a production, sales, operational standpoint, but that they are and should be their most valuable advocates. Empower those who work for you to create conversation and represent your brand—especially those who have a customer service or customer-facing role.
If they build it, service it or sell it, they’re in a perfect position to communicate with your audience in a way that humanizes your brand, but only if you let them. And the best way to begin this process is to not only allow, but empower communication within the organization. Fear has to be left at the door, and social platforms where your employees already live can be leveraged in this respect. Companies that censor employees on social media are only hurting themselves. Use these platforms to build a culture that encourages teamwork, friendship, loyalty and fun… yes, FUN!
“All the talk I see is about consumer engagement reaching out and creating conversation with customers and potential customers, but how about with those even more important… your employees, co-workers, and yes, even the dreaded C-Suite.”
Many companies that are fearful of social media put muzzles on their employees in an effort to control the social conversation. However this conversation is what can add value, create a strong bond with the company and foster relationships that will be the glue that binds, motivates, and drives everyone to succeed.
“Companies that censor employees on social media are only hurting themselves. Use these platforms to build a culture that encourages teamwork, friendship, loyalty and fun… yes, FUN!”
Companies we need to seize the moment and learn to look forward to the things sitting right under all our noses. It can be the simple things that connect employee to employee and leadership to everyone. That type of thinking will tap into our heart’s posture… unite us, make us look out for one another, and build a loyalty that allows a company to thrive for the long-term. It’s way too easy to miss out on how this can build a powerful workforce there for each other everyday.
Here are 18 ways to empower, encourage, and build a team that thinks of itself as a family…
1. Let them try.
2. Let them make mistakes.
3. Set goals with them.
4. Hold them accountable.
5. Tell them you are proud of them.
6. Fight for them.
7. Let them learn to fight for themselves.
8. Do not let fear dictate.
9. Look them in the eye when they talk.
10. Let them dream.
11. Let them see you dream.
12. Let them create.
13. Let them imagine.
14. Listen, listen, listen to them.
15. Give them grace.
16. Take breaks.
17. Learn to adapt.
18. Embrace who they are.
“Tell a child, a husband or an employee that he is stupid or dumb at a certain thing, that he has no gift for it, and that he is doing it all wrong and you have destroyed almost every incentive to try to improve. But use the opposite technique, be liberal with encouragement; make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know that you have faith in his ability to do it, that he has an undeveloped flair for it — and he will practice until the dawn comes in at the window in order to excel.” ~Dale Carnegie