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Build Your Skills to Innovate

Lynnette Cook |


One of my favorite parts about RootStrike Labs is the three-session creativity and confidence booster program (Hopeless to Fearless) we share with nonprofit staff to build their skills to innovate.

We focus on how they can take care of themselves (through things like getting perspective from mindfulness, learning how to adopt a growth mindset, and building skills by understanding, and practicing, the components of creativity), because we know that if they take care of themselves they’ll be better able to take care of one another. And that’s important because the research is clear on the benefits of a positive workplace; it both increases productivity because happier employees get more done and collaborate better, and decreases costs because employees are healthier so absenteeism and accidents go down and turnover is lower.

There are lots of tools we talk about in the course, but two of my favorites include “best friend empathy” and “what am I making this mean?”

The first, best friend empathy, is all about perspective taking. You know that person at work you drives you bonkers? Imagine your best friend acting in exactly the same way. If your best friend behaved poorly, you’d know that something was up. You’d give her a lot of space, and overlook the snippy tone. You might ask how she was doing, and if there was anything you could do to help. Mostly, though, you’d attribute any negative tone, attitude, or snarky remark to some situation you’d assume she was facing, rather than thinking she was an unkind, thoughtless, or selfish person. Most importantly, YOU would feel different. There wouldn’t be any of the gut-clenching, teeth-gnashing, hands-balled-into-fists kind of reaction you experience when the person isn’t your best friend.

Think about that. The only difference between your bestie acting poorly and some random coworker acting in the same way is YOUR internal reaction. There’s a lot of power there, don’t you think?

The second tool I absolutely love is asking myself “what am I making this mean?” I actually suggest writing this on a sticky note and putting it somewhere in your office (perhaps on the bottom of your monitor) so you can see it when you’re dealing with someone else’s nonsense. Boss asks you to do something you don’t think will work? Coworker asking you to redo something you’ve already done three times? Client asking you for more than you can give? All of them can make you feel unappreciated, not valued, or powerless. That’s IF you assume that it’s about you. But it doesn’t have to be about you. Maybe your boss is under pressure from the Board or a funder, but doesn’t tell you so you don’t worry. Maybe your coworker is struggling with an issue at home, and doesn’t realize he’s asked you already. And your client could simply be desperate for someone to hear the desperation. None of it is about you. So what are you making it mean?


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