1. Embrace change.
No person or industry is immune to change. Disruption occurs gradually and then suddenly, so stay on top of the trends in your industry. How is it projected to evolve? Don’t be caught flat-footed. Keep the transferable skills you have in your toolbox sharp. We all have to be nimble to remain relevant. The esteemed Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” Make change a positive force.
2. Learn from other industries.
As one industry innovates and elevates customer satisfaction, those expectations spill over into interactions with other industries. A perfect example is how retail influences health care: If I can virtually hold my place in line at a restaurant, why can’t I do the same thing at an urgent care? That’s how CoxHealth’s Save My Spot service came to light.
3. Find the red thread.
Trends spark innovation. Trendspotting is simply a matter of keeping your ear to the ground and your eyes on the horizon: Watch for patterns in the way people work, shop, eat, interact, spend their leisure time, learn and socialize. Observe news topics, best-selling books, housing trends, top-selling products on Amazon – they all tell a story and serve as a window into consumer behavior. The fun part is thinking through how to apply those insights to connect with your customer in new and more meaningful ways.
4. Stay curious.
I Google everything and channel my inner Steve Urkel by asking a lot of questions. I enjoy learning about the new social platforms my kids are using, and I find it’s a great way to connect and meet them where they are. Don’t judge me, but I’m a fan of TikTok. In marketing, social media platforms ultimately become part of the media mix, so it’s a win-win.
5. Try new forms of exercise – it’s good brain food.
I have more creative energy when I maintain an exercise regimen, plus it’s fun to add a new form of exercise into the mix. I remember the first time I tried hot yoga. I seriously thought I might pass out. Now, I love it and I go every week. I set an intention: Let go of stress and spend one hour focusing on myself. Afterward, I feel stronger, focused, and I’m more productive. Immersing yourself in a subculture of people passionate about a particular exercise is both exhilarating and inspiring. Look at the community Peloton is creating: it’s contagious.
6. Don’t take their monkey.
Support and empower the individuals who report to you. The monkey analogy represents a question/problem a direct report is trying to solve. Together, you can talk about the monkey, pet and feed the monkey, even go for a walk with the monkey, but in the end, your direct report takes their monkey. In other words, brainstorm, troubleshoot and most importantly, listen. Don’t take on every problem and solve it in a vacuum, otherwise you’re robbing the individual of learning and growing, and instead creating an environment of dependence. The ultimate job of a supervisor is to remove barriers, provide support and help connect dots.
7. I value time; you value chocolate.
There isn’t a person on this planet who doesn’t appreciate being recognized for a job well done. As a leader, it is important to remember that people have different preferences when it comes to building rapport among team members and showing gratitude. While I enjoy giving and receiving notes, others may prefer potluck or Zoom lunches. Especially during COVID-19 when people are feeling disconnected and isolated, encourage the development of a morale team that can develop ideas with broad appeal.
8. You’re never too senior to shadow.
I have found that shadowing a subject matter expert exponentially accelerates my learning curve. People like to share their knowledge, so don’t be afraid to reach out to those you feel represent best practices and ask questions.
9. Innovation is a team sport.
Build a team of diverse thinkers. I am part of a cross-functional innovation team that meets weekly to discuss ideas and vet opportunities. Each member evaluates an opportunity through a different lens, which is critical. I love being part of a team that breathes life into new initiatives. When you make yourself accessible and you are viewed as a catalyst for change, people are more comfortable approaching you with their ideas. But be sure to give proper credit and keep those individuals engaged. I’ve found I’m more adept at activating good ideas than I am at generating new ideas, and that’s OK. Successful initiatives require both skills. With limited resources, remember it’s just as important to identify when to stop doing things as it is to start.
10. Be humble, grateful and maintain a good sense of humor.
My absolute favorite thing to do is laugh. Self-deprecating humor is my super power. Laughter breaks down barriers, lightens the load and brings people together – it’s truly the best medicine. And it’s free. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Life is too short. Always have a go-to karaoke song at the ready.
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