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Ignite Your Whole Brain to Advance Your Career!

March 17, 2016
George Watts, Laurie Blazek

Brain Light Bulb

If you believe people are born either with or without creativity – you have it or you don’t – you’d be wrong. You easily have the power to magnify your thinking and become more creative. This article is written for you to have an a-ha moment that transforms your career.

First, let’s examine the language and science of creativity. Research verifies that people are creative in one of two ways, either “rational or intuitive”. Other language descriptors are “head versus heart”, and “thinking versus feeling”.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs – both are incredibly creative, in different ways. Gates sees complex problems in detail; Jobs saw holistic images. Gates is head driven; Jobs was heart driven.

Think about your natural style. Are you thinking or feeling; do you use your head or follow your heart? Where is your personal sense of self?

Here is where it gets interesting from a brain science perspective. If you use your opposite style, the style that is more unnatural, you burn new neural pathways. You force your brain to travel unfamiliar routes. In other words, you expand and rewire your thinking. This action creates a unique, new brain capacity. This new perspective is neurologically more advanced and creative.

Let’s look at three coaching examples from our talent management firm where this approach was used with terrific success.

A regional VP of HR was in contention for the position of Executive VP of Global HR. The coaching challenge was to position herself differently than any other candidate. She is naturally a warm, affectionate extrovert with excellent emotional intelligence. She excels in conflict management and emotionally connects which is critical for success. Our coaching advice was to stretch and become more quantitative. Her superior social skills were self-evident. But she needed to resonate with the CEO who had an accounting and finance background. We determined that the key would be to rebrand and reposition the human resource function in his mind during the interview.

We (rightly) anticipated the CEO would question her about issues important to his head driven personality. He tried to stump her with a question about how she could prove HR’s contribution to profitability. Her answer: “Worker productivity is the single best, most effective way to increase earnings; yet it costs nothing in real dollars. We know that organizations with a high level of worker engagement have 22% greater productivity with 48% fewer safety incidents and 41% fewer quality incidents (Gallup). My strategy is to understand and measure our operational manager’s skills in performance management. Then, understand our front line’s motivation to become more engaged. It’s about creating the ecosystem where workers enjoy coming to work and managers lead, not manage”. By taking a metrically driven head driven approach to this interview she demonstrated broader more creative, strategic thinking while resonating with the head driven personality of the CEO. She got the job.

Let’s take another example. A middle management engineer was eyeing the VP position; her boss was leaving. She was coached to open her interview presentation by saying: “We need to design our technological environment to best utilize human factor interface to create a distinct competitive advantage. We want our people to have less stress and fatigue through molding our technology to learning styles”. She displayed not only engineering expertise (head driven) but crossed into the psychology of worker productivity (heart driven). When a presentation covers both head and heart, it is unique and sets you apart. She presented herself not as an engineer, but as a creative thought leader. She got the job.

A highly educated and experienced IT professional was interested in becoming the SVP of Management Information Systems. He wanted a seat at the table for strategic and operational governance. He needed coaching to prepare for interviews with the executive team. Understanding that his was a head driven personality, we suggested that he focus on how the company’s IT system could help people become more creative through improved connectivity. We encouraged him to understand the new brainstorming and mind-mapping tech tools. We wanted to position him as having a world-view of IT, as a farsighted professional who understands the intersection of technology, innovation, culture and collaboration. By speaking differently and more broadly than every other candidate, he was unique. He too got the job.

The idea is to become more creative by expanding your thinking. Learn the opposite of your natural state. If you are a thinking type, consider the human and emotional aspects of your job and industry environment. If you are a feeling type, think about how you can develop job related metrics and quantitative proficiencies.

Creative Exercise:

Now it’s your turn to be more creative. Close your eyes; picture yourself in your perfect career scenario. Where are you working? What is your chief job responsibility? Are you head or heart driven in your picture? Hold this thought for ten seconds.

Now, work backwards…if you are head driven, write down the two or three important heart driven things you must do to position yourself to reach your perfect scenario. If you are heart driven, write down the two or three most important head driven things you must do. If you are head driven, things could include studying the concept of empathy and working on your “feeling” vocabulary by asking two people a day how they feel about something. When listening, make a special effort to assess how the person is emotionally responding to you. When observing people look at body language and try to infer what someone is feeling. Have conversations with people who use the work you produce and ask them how they feel about it. Look at your career’s impact on people’s emotions and feelings. Take action to develop a greater emotional bond with your team.

If you are heart driven, things could include making a commitment to improve the organization of your workspace and workflow. Create a daily goal list; develop essential metrics that determine success in your career. Look at your job as a series of behavioral processes and determine how you can become more efficient. Study your own company and become familiar with data relating to your industry. We are a firm whose mission is to transform careers. Our coaching advice is simple, but not easy. Understand your environment and expand your area of expertise so that you can converse with both metrics and emotion. Become more creative by mastering both the head and heart. It will be a career game changer!

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