We have been exploring an excellent article by Jeff Haden on the traits of what makes an exceptional employee. He outlined eight traits of exceptional employees and I believe he hit the nail on the head in his article. What I have been looking at with you is the question; can you as a leader "create" exceptional employees?
My contention is that this is entirely possible and in fact I have seen it done many times. Let's focus on one particular trait for our study today.
They're constantly exploring.
Some people are rarely satisfied (I mean that in a good way) and are constantly tinkering with something: reworking a timeline, adjusting a process, tweaking a workflow.
Good employees follow processes. Great employees tweak processes. Exceptional employees find ways to reinvent processes, not just because they are expected to...but because they just can't help themselves. Jeff Haden, 8 signs an Employee Is Exceptional (Which Never Appear on Performance Evaluations)
We could call this natural curiosity or creativity but either way it is a tremendous trait to develop on your team. My contention is that everyone on your team "wants" to exercise this trait but often culture and insecurity stand in the way of this being fulfilled.
Your role then as a leader is to create an environment that welcomes and nurtures this creativity. You provide a safe place to explore new ideas and you provide a structure for this to happen. While these two concepts may seem at odds you must create a structure to unleash your team’s creativity.
What do I mean by this? Creativity without a foundation on facts is opinion. Creativity borne from a set of facts and data is an opportunity. Teach your team to collect the metrics and data around an idea and you will have shown them how to bridge the gap between "gut" and "reality." When they know how to look for and collect the metrics and data they need to validate an idea, then you have truly unleashed that creative trait!
Time is money
One group I worked with had already become conversant with the "structure" of using metrics and collecting data. They measured all operations as a time = money equation either in terms of making money or losing money. Many large pieces of equipment were needed as part of the service they provided and equipment failure equated to lost time and money. For one piece of equipment located in the middle of the operation this was particularly true.
Because they had been collecting data they knew how long it took to replace this machine and came up with a plan that would decrease the time needed to do this. There would need to be an outlay of funds to create the solution but their data demonstrated significant time and millions of dollars in cost savings. This may look like a home run but it was really an outcome of an environment that was already allowing for creativity on a small scale every day. Taking the step to something bigger was natural. Performance Leadership - Think About It!