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Innovation and Fear Can't Reside Together

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

Several years ago, my wife decided to build curriculum for schools based on a book written by Jon Gordon, The Energy Bus. About a year and a half prior to making that plunge, she was gifted the book by one of her teachers while she was principal at our community elementary school. During the time she was a principal, I was the head of human resources for the district and at night, prior to bed, we would try to read something inspiring or most of the time, work related – leadership stuff. I remember this one night when she shared a passage out of The Energy Bus. It talked about getting people off the bus that didn’t share in your vision for the organization. I was shocked because this was the first time, I could remember, a fable talking about removing people from your organization that don’t align.


I am not suggesting that we begin removing people from our organization. However, I am asking that we assess where we are, where are we going, and what are the skills and behaviors needed to get us there. Right now, there is considerable change happening within our organizations and the way we serve our schools, districts, and communities are changing right before our eyes in real time. We are asking our leaders and teachers to develop curriculum to be done at home for our students that are engaging and practical that would keep students focused. Wow imagine that! We had a tough enough time keeping their attention face to face. Now we are asking them to do it virtually. We are asking parents to be more involved and hold their kids accountable to following the plans that has been put in place. Wow imagine that! We had a tough enough time getting these parents to attend a parent teacher conference that was scheduled twice a year. I know this is just a tip of the iceberg, but I think you get my point.

We are all banging our heads against the wall trying to understand what our life will be like during and after COVID-19. Interestingly, innovation and fear can’t reside in the same household. More than ever, during difficult times, we need people to be innovative and create new ways to engage our staff, students, and community. Our vision for the future has to be brighter than what we can currently see or experiencing. Also, our staff has to get there with us. The key to our staff members providing the solutions we need during challenging and mostly any other time is to remain positive. Positive, in meaning, that they can see opportunities in each challenge.

There are so many stories where people are using their talents and skills to make the most of their current situation. They are providing meals, linking people together on social media, people are sending cards and letters to nursing homes, zoos are livestreaming, and much more. Challenging times bring out the best in people, challenging times bring solutions to problems never thought of, and challenging times highlight things that have always been there. No matter what the challenge, there are people on your staff that will respond the same way – whether positive or negative (hopeless or angry). You know your people well and know how they will respond.

So, how will you get your team from hopelessness to innovation? Here are a few ways below that may help, but you have to trust the process and have courage.

If they are feeling hopeless, challenge them in a way to get them to change the way they are seeing the opportunity. When people are feeling hopeless and being the victim of their situation, they are not moving – nothing is happening. You have to challenge them to see things differently which will result in possible conflict. In this situation, conflict is good because you are able to get them moving.

Now that you got them moving and possibly in conflict, it’s time to get them to ownership. This is usually the most challenging because they could possibly move back to hopeless, but because you know how to get them moving, you are going to be a pro. Start by having them focus on things in their current situation they can control and allow them to meditate on it for a moment. Next, ask them how they could take this same situation and apply it to their new situation where they are not feeling in control. At this point, there should be an “aha” moment. You will know when they have reached this moment because their energy will shift.

Once that energy shifts, now you have taken the first step on the innovation ladder into new possibilities.

Fear is inevitable, but Courage is a choice.

We always have a choice, what will yours be today?

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