In a discussion I once had on HuffPost Live, we spoke about how preparation helps when introverts attempt to make friends. It occurred to me that building relationships at work also relates to preparation. In fact, the quiet influencers who have the most fluid and comfortable conversations consciously prepare for these interactions.
Here are some examples of how they prepare to build relationships at work.
1) Set up space and times to talk. Consider how your workspace enhances or discourages conversations. If you work in a noisy or busy space take a walk with a colleague or move to a private area. Scope these places out ahead of time. Schedule phone calls or video conferencing so that you are both focused.
2) Make time for face time. Be intentional about it. John Maeda, the head of the Rhode Island School of Design learned to get off the computer and connect with people. He found that scheduling ‘walking around’ time was useful.
3) Allow for serendipity. Companies are encouraging workplace happenstance that leads to innovation and creative ideas. For instance, the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs built central bathrooms at Pixar to foster connections between different people. Google’s Vice-President, David Radcliffe, designed their 2015 headquarters in a way to encourage ‘casual collisions of the work force.’ As a result, the new design will place employees no further than a 2 1/2 minute walk from each other. Why not eat lunch with some new people once in while or take your breaks in a different part of the building?
4) Prepare questions ahead of time. At gatherings you can ask, “What brought you to this meeting?” or, “What have you been working on lately?” Get the ball rolling by preparing some talking points about your own interests and background. Selah Abrams, a quiet influencer says, “you can read people like a good book and if you engage in a conversation you can learn even more.”
So with a little prep you will be more confident AND strengthen your workplace relationships.
Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., Certified Speaking Professional, is a bestselling author and global keynote speaker known as the “champion for introverts.” In addition to her latest book, The Genius of Opposites, she has written two bestselling books about introverts (Quiet Influence and The Introverted Leader), which have been translated into 14 languages.
Highly structured lives, busy schedules and constant communication mean that employees today have less of a propensity to be creative. We think we have to buy tools, refurnish offices, and hire consultants to help us be creative, when what we really need is a little old fashioned downtime.
Ironically, the innovation that has led us to this point is what’s stopping us from continuing. We need to get back to the basics to be creative.
Here are three forgotten ways to boost creativity.
Remember when you were a kid and you told your parents you were bored? What was their response? While today’s parents would hand over an iPhone to play with, the old-fashioned response would be something to the effect of “A little boredom will do you good.” It turns out they were right. A study by Mann and Cadman reported in the Creativity Research Journal shows that being bored can elicit divergent thinking — the generation of new and different ideas. In other words, boredom can lead to creativity.
Does this mean we should be bored at work if we want to innovate? Well, yes, at least sometimes. Forget increasing employee engagement and productivity for a moment. Perhaps you need to let your employees disengage and do nothing for a little while to harness their creativity. When we are too busy, we don’t have time to let our minds wander — and that is what creativity thrives on.
So when your boss comes in and catches you daydreaming, tell her you’re harnessing your creativity.
Stop distracting yourself with mindless chatter. Creativity requires time to think. When you direct your attention to e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, you’re not giving yourself time to think. Take a look at the creative people you know. Chances are, they are more reflective and less obsessed with what’s trending.
In fact, a study conducted by David Strayer suggests that unplugging and reconnecting with nature can increase creativity. Meditating can also lead to greater creativity. Creative film director David Lynch is a perfect example. If you’re more of a techie than a yogi, evidence is mounting that simply taking a break from Facebook can also lead to more creative and productive practices.
But don’t let the research sway you. Use your common sense to avoid distracting nonsense.
Creativity doesn’t happen on a schedule. Your creative inspiration may take hours, days, or weeks to occur. Scientists call this the creative “incubation period.” Contrary to popular belief, time pressures stifle creativity, according to Teresa Amabile, a leading creativity researcher. Amabile also says that too little pressure might lull people into inaction — reinforcing the notion that boredom at work is useful sometimes, but not all the time.
Patience is almost nonexistent in today’s work culture. It’s an old-fashioned concept developed much before the time of Instagram. But some things can’t be hurried. For true innovation to occur, we need to let connections within our brain occur and that can be at unpredictable moments. We need to have faith in ourselves and our employees that these moments will occur. Given time, they will.
When it comes to rushing your employees to innovate, give them a break—literally.
In sum, go ahead and disengage, stop responding to emails, and come back at some later unspecified time with a creative idea your boss will love (or something like that).