When I worked as a District Sales Leader at Frito-Lay, the company had an operating system for their sales teams, known as the Big 3, which consisted of the following.
- Monthly Team Meetings
I have no idea if the Big 3 is still in place, however, I do know that the system worked well. Why? There are 5 reasons. Ready? Let’s go.
- Establish Trust
- Create Alignment
- Develop Balance
- Build Collaboration
- Institute Accountability
Little did I know then, that these five outputs would actually show up in a different way 20 years later. Yep. How?
They showed up as important to developing and building an innovative culture. A culture grounded in trust, alignment, balance, collaboration, and, yep, accountability. The outcome? Innovation.
Alright, let’s now call these, just for fun, the Big 5. What, then, do we get when we instill the Big 5 into our teams, businesses, and organizations? A culture where innovation can thrive.
Implementing the Big 5 into your team is about developing culture. As your culture develops, you can then wrap processes and systems around that culture.
You may be wondering about developing systems first, then culture. I would advise against it. Why? Culture matters more. Simple.
Alright, let’s take a look at the Big 5.
1. Establish Trust
I’ve written about establishing trust a couple of times. In 3 Steps and 9 Keys to Creating Safety on a Team in 5 Minutes, I write about 9 keys to creating safety on teams. And, inside of creating safety is establishing trust. Very important.
Establishing trust must come before people will feel safe. If people do not feel safe, they will hold back. Makes perfect sense. However, when there is trust, people will give all that they have, and they will also be vulnerable, try new things, go out on limbs; and, that is where innovation lives.
When there is trust between you and the team, and between each team member, you have an opportunity to create outputs and outcomes that have never been seen before. Why?
Because trust + safety + vulnerability = innovation.
Once trust and safety are in place, creating alignment is next. Creating alignment can take time. It took the team I currently work on over 2 years to create alignment. Year 1 was creating trust and safety. Year 2, creating alignment.
2. Create Alignment
Alignment takes time. Really. It is normal for teams to move in different directions at the beginning. If you are unsure about this truth, that’s okay.
You can implement systems and processes upfront to ensure creating alignment quickly. However, as was aforementioned, creating those systems and processes early will also create a barrier to innovation. Why?
Because innovation thrives in an open environment where all the answers are not figured out. Though this can be stressful, know inside of an innovative environment, where safety, trust and vulnerability thrive, systems and processes will come.
Alignment comes when a vision is cast and strategy is created to tie the day-day operations to that vision. Each person on a team has a role to play in the execution of a vision.
When you get clear on everyone’s role and responsibilities, you are ready to create alignment between the vision and the day-to-day operations.
Here is how it looks linearly.
- Create a 10-year vision
- Create a 5-year vision
- Create a 3-year plan
- Create this year’s objectives
- Create 90-day priorities
- Create work of the month
- Create work of the week
- Create work of the day
Though that list looks long, it really isn’t that much, though it does take time. There is a very good resource for creating this kind of vision system, it is called Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, by Gino Wickman. I highly recommend it to all leaders in all organizations.
Alright, now that you’ve established trust and created alignment, the next step is to develop balance. Sounds simple. Yet, developing balance takes practice. Let’s take a look.
3. Develop Balance
As a leader, should you focus more on culture, or more on performance? Hm. Both are important. I like to think about culture and performance, like a see saw. Focus going back and forth. Sometimes, culture takes precedent, and sometimes, performance.
However, you must have both.
If you have a strong culture, and performance issues, you are not moving forward. If you have excellent performance metrics, and no culture, people will burn out and leave.
Developing a balanced approach to culture and performance takes practice, and an open mind. Meaning that when people bring you intelligence that a shift towards culture, or towards performance is needed, be open to shifting focus. Important.
In an open environment where trust and alignment have been created, the team will let you know. Really, they will. However, you still need to pay close attention to the team, and each individual on the team.
Like anything, developing balance takes time, and practice. You will know when you stray too far into one realm or the other. You can feel it when a team is not moving, or is moving too much. Watch, listen, and feel.
Collaboration is another important component to build in the journey towards creating an innovative culture. Some might say it is one of the most important.
4. Build Collaboration
Why is collaboration so important? Well, to develop an innovative culture, building collaboration is a must. On teams where trust, alignment, and balance have been instituted, vulnerability will also typically be present.
And, being vulnerable with each other in an environment where collaboration is high is a natural breeding ground for innovation. Why?
Because where vulnerability meets collaboration is an open space ready for innovation to occur.
Actually, where vulnerability meets collaboration is where innovation is already happening. Really, it is.
Innovation needs spaces that are open, collaborative, and safe. Further, alignment and balance also help create innovative spaces. Though we’ve already discussed these two, there are two more reasons that showcase just how true the last sentence is.
- Because when your team is aligned, you are all on the same page, moving in the same direction. You are one.
- Because when there is balance, you also have balance with innovation. For instance, if all you do is innovate, then nothing will move forward. Similarly if all you do is execute, then innovation will founder. You need both. Both innovation and execution. A must.
Alright, now, let’s talk about accountability.
5. Institute Accountability
You may be asking yourself right now, what in the world does accountability have to do with innovation? Well, a lot actually. Let’s go.
Fostering an innovative culture, which also executes is imperative to actually creating newness in the world. You have to develop both sides of the equation. Similar to developing balance. And, how do you instill accountability into your culture? It starts with you.
You must practice accountability. Holding yourself accountable, first. You must also be open to the team holding you accountable. Accountable for what, you ask? For what you say and do. Integrity.
Developing an innovative culture means that each individual, starting with the leader, holds themselves accountable for the actions they take, and sometimes, don’t take.
The same goes with the team. When each individual holds themselves to the culture of innovation that you are developing, the team is also simultaneously held accountable. And, when people don’t perform?
Well, you must understand why. If it is a skill issue, offer them the opportunity to develop, to grow. If they are interested, great. If not, well, that is their choice.
If it is will. Then they also have a choice.
Bottom line. Developing an innovative culture means that accountability is taken seriously. As seriously as having fun, growing together, learning from each other, and innovating new products and services. Same.
Alright, that’s the Big 5 of developing an innovative culture. Fun. And, guess what? You can develop an innovative culture anytime. Really. How? Well, like all things, one step, or action at a time.
What will you develop next?