Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Creativity Tips: Don't Be Responsible

My 16-year-old daughter Mary recently got her first job -- she's a hostess at a local restaurant. Last night, she was scheduled to work from 4:30 - 9:30 p.m. She realized -- a little late in the game -- that if she worked that long, she wouldn't be able to study for finals.

"I'm going to call and tell them I can't come in," she said. "I'm going to tell them if I go to work, I'll fail all my finals."

Now, it was almost 3:30 p.m. when she had this revelation. My gut reaction was, "You're doomed. They'll fire you." But, I didn't say that. I didn't tell her to suck it up and go to work -- or yell at her for not studying more over the weekend. I simply suggested she call the manager and explain that she couldn't make her shift and leave it at that -- no reasons, no excuses. Then I walked away.

You know what happened?
  • The manager told her it was fine, as long as she found a replacement.
  • She made a number of other calls -- and found a replacement.
  • She came running down the stairs to tell me, big grin on her face. She's 16, folks. Running down the stairs to talk with me is a VERY BIG DEAL. Big grin? Also a VERY BIG DEAL.
What does this have to do with you and creativity? Simple. When you're on a creative team, there will be times when the "pups*" have a challenge. Maybe you can solve it. Maybe you can't. Doesn't matter.

Give them advice, if they ask. Then walk away. Let them handle it. We learn by doing. We learn by doing things wrong. We learn by fixing.

And here's the wonderful thing: When you hold someone responsible for their own actions, you give them the opportunity to take pride in the results.

* This is what I call my younger team members. It is not politically correct. But it is always said with love. Of course, they may use a female dog term for me the moment I turn my back ...

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