Transforming Work Part 3: From control to creativity

By on July 10, 2015

The last two months have featured two key mindset shifts that forward thinking leaders and employees must make to have a positive impact on transforming their workplace.

The first was to shift from a surviving work style that plays it safe and stays in the comfort zone, to a mindset that dares to set their sights on a vision of truly thriving and is willing to take some risks to get those rewards.
The second workplace transformation mindset shift involves focusing more on being of service than on gaining status. Both of these shifts inform the third mindset of workplace transformation – moving from control to creativity.

All successful companies recognize that creativity and innovation are essential to get and stay ahead of the competition. They talk about the importance of innovation in meetings, provide training on creative thinking and problem solving, and may even evaluate creativity and innovation as a competency on performance reviews. Yet despite all of the talk, time, effort and money invested, all too many leaders (and the cultures they create) are so tied up in the need to control employees, avoid risk, and prevent mistakes that they completely kill any possibility of creativity.

While most managers would claim to want their team to be more creative and entrepreneurial, their misguided belief that they need to be in control of every little thing that falls under their umbrella leads them to treat employees like order takers. The Wiseman Group studied 150 leaders in 35 companies across 5 continents and found that most managers underestimate how much their employees’ talent is being underutilized. They further found that there were two types of leaders – ‘Diminishers’ and ‘Multipliers.’ While these two types of leaders had similarities in terms of their business acumen, customer focus, and role as thought leaders, the research showed that they viewed the world through two very different lenses that caused them to either dramatically multiply or diminish the potential of their team members.

Diminishers tended to assume that people would never figure things out without them. Despite asking for creativity, they tended to treat employees like order-takers by micromanaging, telling them what to do, putting on pressure to perform faster and set bigger goals, and jumping in to make decisions for them. Multipliers gave their people much more space to think and find answers for themselves – an essential ingredient for cultivating the right environment for creativity and fostering entrepreneurial ownership for the realization of results.

As the names for these two leadership styles imply, one diminishes results and one multiplies them, but it surprised the researchers to discover that, across companies and industries, the Multiplier style accessed twice as much of their employees’ capacity and intellectual power as the Diminisher style did. Even more disturbing, however, was how many of the Diminishers were unaware that the management practices they were using were limiting their employees from fully utilizing their intelligence and potential. In other words, they thought they were being good leaders, but they were accidentally diminishing the capacity of their team.

You are an “accidental” Diminisher if you:
  1. like to jump in to rescue people or projects;
  2. Need to be in the loop to ensure that everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing;
  3. Worry about the disasters could occur if you don’t oversee everything;
  4. Get frustrated when people question you or don’t immediately trust your recommendations;
  5. Take up most of the air space in meetings with your enthusiasm and ideas.

What many managers fail to understand is that creativity does not have to mean chaos. Multipliers were better at fostering creativity and entrepreneurship because they had a better understanding of where they could and should exert control – in defining the foundations and supporting capacity building. This is one of the key “ahas” that participants have in the project planning training sessions I teach. The more clearly defined the purpose, principles and vision of a project, the easier it becomes to trust that all staff working on the project will be acting in ways that will move it forward.

To tap into the multiplier effect, foster creativity and empower entrepreneurial passion within your team, try the following:

☛    Ask more questions and wait longer before giving answers;

    Ensure everyone knows the values, principles, vision, and purpose that guide our decisions;

☛    Make sure everyone knows the results they are responsible for achieving and has the skills,  and resources and support they need to take action and get results independently.

☛    The bottom line is this: In today’s rapidly changing business world, leaders need to get comfortable with releasing control over processes and actions, and instead become experts at building the capacity of their team to deliver th entrepreneurial passion and creativity necessary to lead the market.


Read part 1

Read part 2

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates spiritual insight with top-tier leadership, wellness and sustainability consulting to help individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. She can be contacted through her website at