You know the feeling. There’s a deadline looming, but not much seems to be happening with your team. It seems as if they’re minds have gone completely blank. Nothing, nada. You ask for results but it’s like their brains are frozen. It as if their creative juices stopped working, or to an effective level.
You question but, the more you do, the less results they produce. You’re frustrated and they are, as well. So, what would cause their creative nature to slow down or, even, stop?
Luckily the latest research in neuroscience shows us the most common roadblocks to creativity, and how to move past them and get on with the job.
- Fear of failure
Most people are afraid of failing because they see it as a one-way street to disaster, rejection, and a stain on their reputation forever. Perversely, fear of failure is the mirror image of perfectionism. The idea that nothing you can do will be good enough, and that this failure defines your identity.
With failure, it means you are worried about failing someone – their expectations of you – and try to please them; however, this can have the opposite effect of what you are trying to do.
Fear of failure means you’re less likely to take risks, and you put off even starting. And those are two things that can kill creativity stone dead. Redefine creativity as a series of experiments, with failure as a kind of course-correction and an inevitable part of the process. Just start, taking one small action is the key to getting those creative ideas out. As a leader, you can allow time for member to be in the ‘flow.’
2. There’s not enough time
The ticking clock is another creativity killer. If you’re like most people, your schedule is probably crammed, and you feel like you’ll never catch up. If your checklist just keeps growing, you won’t be able to relax in the creative process and let the ideas flow.
A surprising way to find more time is to quarantine some chillout time in your diary. Priorities some downtime to listen to music, meditate, or just sit quietly. You’ll feel much less stressed and open to the creative flow. As a leader, you can keep members on track with gentle reminders so there is less pressure while holding them to set deadlines.
3.You’re still staring at the screen
Sitting at your desk, staring at the computer or the blank page is not a good way to get creative. The more you try to force ideas, the less they come; this is mainly due to the cortisol that is released under stress, causing these attention deficits to happen.
If you’ve been trying to write or problem-solve and it’s just not happening, the best thing you can do is go for a walk or sit and do some deep breathing or short meditation. Get out of the environment that’s keeping you stuck, get moving, and your mental gears can disengage and relax enough to be ready when inspiration strikes. As a leader, you can encourage your employees to take ‘brain breaks’ throughout the day.
4. You’re feeling negative
Negative thinking can stop creativity in its track. If you’re sitting there frowning, and thinking you can’t do it, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that you won’t be able to do it. Pessimism and negative self-talk set up a vicious cycle of gloom and low energy.
Reject that self-defeating attitude and give yourself a pep talk. Reframe your task and just promise yourself you’ll write down whatever comes into your head, just to get the process started. Remember, first drafts are invariably not your best product, because that’s what a first draft is for! You’ve done good work before, you’ll do it again. Tell the muse you’re ready and get writing! As a leader, you can work to keep a positive and uplifting environment, while checking in with your members to see how they are doing each day.
If you want more creativity and better results, leaders need to be aware of the ‘pitfalls’ that employees may be facing but, doing so, without judgement and willingness to help them get in their ‘creative flow’ The suggestions above will aide in that understanding, along with some tips to adopt into the culture and work-life. The result will be a happier and more engaged workplace, with better results. Be that leader.
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