SBM Articles


The Leader's Role in Sparking Creativity

by Kathy Cooperman

How do you view creative thinking in your workplace? As a leader, do you encourage fresh, new ideas, or do you tend to gravitate toward the tried and true?

It depends, right? Many factors will influence what end of the continuum we most value:
- Industry
- Safety/security
- Economic conditions
- Past success or failure
- Personality
- Organization culture
- … and more

FYI for Insight states: “The skill level for most people in Creating the New and Different is low when compared to other characteristics.”

Your leadership role provides a platform for either welcoming new ideas consistently or squelching them at the first mention of shaking up the status quo.

Toxic Cultures

What exactly is a toxic culture? Based on my research and experience working with employees, professionals, executives and teams of all specialties, a toxic culture might include:

- Punitive, old-school leadership.
- Employees frequently criticized but rarely recognized/rewarded.
- Strong factions/cliques causing infighting.
- An intimidating environment (screaming, yelling, profanity, throwing things).
- Ineffective leadership skills at the highest levels.
- Unclear vision and performance expectations.
- Hoarded information and communication that is not shared with employees.
- Unfair or nonexistent performance reviews.
- A low-trust environment.
- Power struggles (double standard for management, unfair treatment of employees).

I’ve observed cultures firsthand through my consulting and executive coaching. I’ve conducted 360 leader assessments, including verbal interviews with bosses, peers and direct reports. I’ve also conducted culture assessments and gained an in-depth look at the inner workings of how things get done behind the scenes.

Culture Assessment

I’ve learned that few organizations stop to assess their cultures. The cost of ignoring a toxic culture is disastrous in terms of turnover, morale and profitability. Customer care suffers as a result.

Where do you begin to measure your organization’s culture?

Finding a valid and reliable assessment tool is the first step. I prefer an assessment tool called LEA Culture Survey from MRG. The result of the assessment is a report that paints a clear picture of “what it’s like to work here.”Leaders shape the culture of their organizations. They determine what gets noticed, rewarded — and in many cases what gets ignored or even punished.

I facilitate the culture assessment process using the following 10 steps:
1. Identify a sponsor and/or culture project team.
2. Identify critical leadership practices for achieving the mission of your organization.
3. Select the best culture assessment (online preferred).
4. Communicate to everyone what’s coming and how they’ll be involved.
5. Administer the online culture assessment (promise anonymity).
6. Preview results with culture project team/sponsor.
7. Plan rollout of results to all; hold group feedback sessions.
8. Explain next steps and form action teams.
9. Close the gaps to reach top workplace benchmarks.
10. Re-survey in 12 to 18 months.

Invest in your most valuable resource: your people. Rather than guess at what it’s like to work in your organization, measure it. Help shape the culture that helps you achieve your mission.

Kathy Cooperman, an executive coach and leadership expert, is the president and founder of KC Leadership Consulting LLC. For more information, contact her at, or 720.542.3324.

Submitted 173 days ago
Categories: categoryLeader Acceleration
Views: 813