This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Inspiration comes in countless forms, but sometimes you have to consciously set aside time to allow it to happen. This may sound counterintuitive – after all, isn’t inspiration supposed to strike us like a lightning bolt with an “a-ha” moment or an out-of-the blue idea? Sometimes it does, but we can also seek out opportunities for inspiration.
Part of identifying these opportunities is to constantly expand your circle so that you’re regularly interacting with different people. And part of it is simply listening more effectively to the people around you.
On four separate occasions recently (none of them a conference in an exotic location, sadly), I was exposed to new information, new people and new ideas that made me look at things through a different lens. Each of my sources of inspiration came out of events I specifically made time for, but to be honest, I didn’t actually expect that each would provide me with the brain bump I need as I head into planning season and wrestle with some challenges.
One event was a seminar on exponential technology. The topics were fascinating – from drugs in the pipeline that will cure the incurable and cars that will drive themselves, to wearable technology that will let you know when your mind is wandering. Topics like these are not part of my daily existence – not a lot of thinking about exponential technology goes on regularly in my brain, beyond wondering how I can clone myself so I can be with two teenage sons and be at work at the same time. The policy implications and business impact of these ideas, however, do play to my strengths, so it’s good for me to be exposed to these developments, wrap my head around their place in our future and get in front of them.
The second event was an unexpected conversation with the chief executive officer of a company that makes products I use and love. In a discussion about the future of marketing those products, his point of view was markedly different than mine, and I thought about it all week. Should I look at the situation differently? And if he’s right, how would his solution apply to my organization?
The third source of inspiration occurred when I carved out an hour to read and listen to anything not in my inbox. I started with the most recent editions of two magazines and then flipped to a podcast with a math guru who has a cool business model. Two ideas came out of this.
Finally, I spent an evening at an event with wine, women and song. The small gathering was designed to make introductions, but it achieved more than that. The eclectic group (which, for some of us, included people we mentor) provided so much stimulation. Why, for example, would the question you ask Hillary Clinton be different than the one you ask Bill Clinton? Why wouldn’t you put your PhD designation on your business card? Is venture capital too safe? How do you get scale on your project? Do we need to change the way we do corporate reporting? And, of course, where did you get those boots, where is the best spin class in the city, and how will we get our kids through to the end of the school year?
When leaders take the time to be inspired, they can use their resources, influence and power to inspire and enable others to do more and learn more – and make real change. But if you don’t carve out some time for things that are not on your list or plan, you may not expand your network to bring in people with fresh ideas, and you may not deliver the best results.
So make sure you take time for the people and things that inspire you. Don’t just get things done – dream bigger, inspire others and get things done better. That’s a lot of what leaders are expected to do.
Colleen Albiston (@clalbiston) is the chief marketing officer at Deloitte Canada (@DeloitteCanada), one of Canada’s leading professional services firms that provides audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services.