When I am approached by an organization to help them infuse their team with a culture of leadership, one of the first things we seek to do is percolate as many ideas and perspectives as possible about how to achieve the desired end result. The starting place might be the 8 characteristics of a culture infused with leadership, yet each organization may envision the desired result differently. It is important to create a unique vision of what the organization will be like in a future that is infused with a culture of leadership. Otherwise it is difficult for the executive team to have a clear objective or goal in mind that they can communicate clearly and concisely.
There are several methods for conducting a brainstorming session, and over the years Leader Discovery has probably tried them all. Here is what tends to work well. It is a method that takes into consideration both individual insight and perspective, plus group dynamics and scaffolding (building on the ideas of others). The results can be remarkably creative even for a group who may start out thinking they are not on the cutting edge of innovation.
- Set the stage by articulating the purpose of the brainstorming session. Let the participants know in advance that you will be asking them for their ideas about what their specific company, department, team, or division could look like in the future if everyone exhibited the 8 characteristics of a leadership infused culture. Seed the group with a few examples, and then ask them to reflect and spend time visualizing each person or team working for them – and how that person or group would be different if this leadership infusion works. It is important not to rush this – allow some time for the executives to envision what things will be like in the future.
- Once some time has been spend allowing individual reflection and visualization it is time to capture these visual thoughts and ideas in words that can be used to customize a unique leadership development program of the organization. I recommend using sticky notes and asking each person involved in the brainstorm to write down one idea or expected change or outcome on each sticky note. The concept is to take all the visual or imagined results from the reflection in step one, and represent each with a sticky note.
- After all participants have arranged their sticky notes on a large board or wall – these notes can be further organized by categories, or ideas and concepts repeated on multiple notes can be condensed. The group now has some shared understandings of what the desired future organizational culture could become. Some consultants may stop here, yet this is the time when some additional ideas may emerge from the group sparked by building on other ideas. This is a concept sometimes called scaffolding.
- Ask participants to build upon everything captured in the organized sticky notes. Ask what things might be missing, overlooked, or mentioned but not fully articulated in a focused or granular way. Give time for more thought, discussion, and addition of more opinions and ideas based on this final scaffolding exercise.