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Why You Need to Focus on Creating Value

Words by 3p Contributor
Leadership & Transparency
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By Diana Kander

Every year, companies are losing upward of $450 billion, all because employees aren’t actively engaged with their positions. These employees are content to simply clock in and clock out, doing what is necessary to avoid losing their jobs.

Employee interests tend to fall into two categories: innovation or preservation. Employees focused on preserving their jobs are simply trying not to get fired, never acting outside their job descriptions or coming forward with new ideas for fear of being noticed as having failed. Innovators, on the other hand, are focused on creating value for the organization. They’re constantly developing their skills, seeking opportunities to help the team and making themselves irreplaceable.

Despite the name, employees with a preservation mindsets are killing your business. And their fears of failure, risk, and change are taking your company down with them.

Exploring the paradox


Recently, while consulting on a software project, I found myself face-to-face with a glaring example of the huge financial impact of a preservation mindset. With overwhelming evidence pointing to the software’s failure, the project’s leader confided in me: “I can’t tell my boss it’s failed! We have 18 months left of funding, and I don’t want to lose my job.” Classic preservation mindset — terrified of drawing attention to himself but fully prepared to continue working on a project despite knowing it was doomed to fail.

Innovation employees are the engaged ones, taking initiative to make themselves more valuable and their teams more successful. They offer solutions and ideas and actively contribute, rarely worrying about their employment status.

Preservation employees, on the other hand, worry they may be more easily replaced — making them anxious about their positions within the company. As many as 68 percent of employees are disengaged and just trying not to make waves.

How to buckle up and drive value


An innovation mindset is not genetic; it’s a learned skill — one that even the most fearful employee focused on preservation can develop. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to encourage and guide these employees in developing the skills they need:

1. Self-awareness: Innovators know their shortcomings and actively work to improve. They crave constructive criticism and are much more invested in getting better than receiving affirmation. You can teach someone with a preservation mindset the value of self-awareness by emulating it yourself.

2. Coachability: While self-awareness helps you figure out what needs improvement, coachability helps you actually make the necessary changes. Innovators believe that they can always be better. And it’s not enough that they just want to be better: They use deliberate practice to get there.

3. Collaboration: Innovators don’t come up with big ideas alone; they seek mentors and collaborative relationships to access the expertise they need. And in challenging times, while those with the preservation mindset craft excuses for why they aren’t at fault, innovators assemble teams to help overcome whatever challenges stand in their way.

You can help those with a preservation mindset address their fears by encouraging them to connect with others who have the experience to mentor them through troubled times.

4. Strategy: It’s not enough just to work hard. Those with an innovation mindset prioritize their tasks to provide true value to the company. They’ve learned the invaluable skill of saying “No,” working only on the tasks that will prove most valuable for the organization.

Help preservation mindset team members prioritize their tasks by setting out the key criteria for which work will create the biggest impact to the organization.

5. Creativity: Those with innovation mindsets have no shortage of ideas for creating new opportunities within the organization, but this can be difficult for employees who are just getting started.

Help preservationist co-workers turn their idea muscles into idea machines by prompting them in the right direction. Can they write down 10 ways they can change their job to save five hours every week? How about 10 skills they can learn in an online class that would provide value to the organization? There are hundreds of these prompts, but the key is helping those with preservation mindsets ease into the creative process.

6. Resilience: True innovation means more uncertainty, greater risk, and potentially higher stress as a result. While the benefits greatly outweigh these drawbacks, aspiring innovators may need help managing these stressors to become the lean, mean, value-creating machines they aspire to be.

As a leader, your job is to notice stressful situations, help innovators improve their resilience, and make it clear that they shouldn’t be afraid to suggest or try new ideas.

It’s easy to understand those with the preservation mindset: They have worked hard to get where they are, and they are worried about losing their positions. But this fear is counterproductive; it forces individuals to suffocate rather than protect their opportunities. If you can help your employees transition from preservation to an innovation mindset, you’ll significantly increase engagement and watch your company reach heights you never imagined.

Image copyright: DianaKander.com

Featured image: Pexels

Diana Kander is a New York Times bestselling author and innovation coach. She serves as a consultant and professional speaker for clients and audiences across the country. Connect with Diana on Twitter.

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