I remember this time I had an idea I was so scared to share at work. See, my last few ideas had not only been shot down, they had been obliterated. To be fair, the ideas may not have been my best work, but I still had worked up the bravery necessary to share them. Here, I fell victim to being a coward and didn’t share the idea. A few days later, I told the idea to a co-worker – who shared it and ended up being praised when the idea took off and made the company a lot of money. It was fear that crippled me and cost me that day.
In a recent article posted in Vanity Fair online, interviews of Microsoft employees revealed the same fear that I felt that day. This fear has crippled Microsoft. They haven’t had a major launch success since the year 2000. The people interviewed revealed what motivated them most while at Microsoft: “Stack Ranking”. This management system forces every division of the company to rank employees as top performers, good performers, average performers, and poor performers. That’s motivating. One employee even said:
. . .“It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other, rather than competing with other companies.”
When leading creative people and attempting to create, innovative communities battle the temptation to play the comparison game. It breeds fear. Treat each team member as an individual who contributes their work the best they can to improve the product. That doesn’t mean everyone is going to excel and, at times, we’re going to have to replace some folks. Anything that breeds fear creates opportunities to stifle creativity. Lead with vision and mission, not with fear and intimidation.
Be aggressive in fighting fear. It wants to cripple the minds of the creative people in our organizations. Set expectations clearly. Be honest – even when it hurts. Communicate, and then over communicate. Protect the people in our organizations who create from the outsiders who view criticism without conclusion as constructive. Being creative and innovative is so important for the growth of what you do and how you grow. Eradicating fear is vital to keep a culture of creativity alive.