The Seasons of Letting Go:
Motivating Employees Toward Success
Claudia Busch Lee, Ph.D.
How can we create room for something new and different unless we are willing to let go of
what we currently know? What are your 'Seasons of Letting Go?' This poetic phrase was
recently posed to me by a gentleman named Dave, whom I coached during a Leadership
Only once in my years of consulting have I heard, "When we hire someone, we ask them to
observe us for the first 30 days. They are then expected to give us at least 2-3 ideas about
how we might do our work differently." A brilliant way to create and reinforce new ideas!
I was watching 60 Minutes recently. The discussion was about keeping the penny in circulation
in the USA. It costs more to produce it than it is worth. One expert stated: There are two
reasons to keep the penny: inertia and nostalgia.
Does this sentiment not mirror our lives at work, where we yearn for some innovation and
creativity as we cling tenaciously to our ideas and ways of operating? We are continually
frustrated by the apparent lack the energy to move ideas/processes/products in a different and
often more productive and effective direction.
We often cling tenaciously to our ideas and ways of operating.. In order to make room for new
ideas, it is necessary to release that which currently exists. To release current ways of operating,
we must first create safety for people to suggest other ways of doing things without fear of
criticism, judgment or ridicule.
"Put it on your wish list" were the only words necessary to satisfy our children's desires when
we'd walk through a toy store when they were little and wanted every other toy that they saw.
When it got down to the actual purchase, they had to choose one toy from the many available.
The adult version of a wish list at work is wanting things to be done differently.
Leaders and managers are far too quick to squelch creative ideas by saying such things as:
• We can't afford that.
• We've already tried that.
• We don't do things that way around here.
Creativity is coming up with a multitude of differing ideas- maybe those on your 'wish list.'
Innovation is putting those ideas into action.
When approaching a task, before immediately diving into action (which is what most people do
and are rewarded for), create a space in the discussion whereby multiple ways of approaching or
looking at this challenge might be entertained. Most creative ideas come from the second or third
idea (or a combination of several ideas)--not the first. During this 'Exploration Phase' there is NO
JUDGMENT OF IDEAS.
The goal is to create as many ideas as possible, constantly looking at the situation and asking
'What is another way?' or 'What else?' The more, the merrier is the motto during this stage of
creativity. After a plethora of ideas have been captured, judge the best of the available ideas to
focus the plan of action. This leads to the 'Implementation Phase.'
• Colleagues are more engaged in the process they helped create
• Higher quality decisions get made
• Constant reflection on what's working and what could be more effective saves both
time and money in the long run
• Proactive thinking can take place for long-term implications
Have a place to gather good ideas. Make it easy for employees to offer new and different
ways to do things through idea boxes or feedback suggestions.
Advertise new solutions. Give credit to those employees who came up with ideas about how
the work could be done more effectively. Create a big board to advertise and celebrate
monthly or quarterly.
Have your workers create an 'Irritant List.' This list is comprised of all the things about
this job are irritating. Create a master list (without any names attached) categorize the list
and form teams to address potential solutions so that buy-in for results are created from
Always ask 'What are we doing well?' and 'How could we be even more effective?'
These questions allow you to build on strengths and also create for a learning
(vs. defensive) environment.
Emphasize what will remain the same. We too frequently tell our colleagues what needs to
be done differently vs. balancing what will remain constant. Change typically creates
some tension and anxiety. Start from a place of security when introducing creative
People are a fantastic source of creative ideas if only leaders and managers have the courage
to look at and pursue doing things differently. May your creative courage abound and allow
you to take inventory about what ought to be held tight and what needs to be let go in your
'season of letting go.'