'Encourage Courage'

Four steps CFOs can take to inspire creative thinking.

May 21, 2013
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Creativity can't be outsourced.

In fact, it's definitely now a "must-have" skill for businesses--and chief financial officers (CFO) can lead the way to foster those skills, said entrepreneur and author Josh Linkner in his opening keynote address during the 19th Annual CUNA CFO Council Conference in Phoenix, Monday.

Creativity applies each time you connect with employees, members, and vendors. It applies to how you conduct your staff meetings. Creativity is hands-down the most-cited attribute of business success, Linkner says.
Understand that your job title has nothing to do with your creativity, Linkner adds. As CFOs, your true value to your credit unions is how you use your imaginations to provide insights, not just data. Doing so will bring success.
He cites a study in which 98% of kindergarteners answered yes to the question, "Are you creative?" But just 2% of high-schoolers identified themselves as creative. 
Sadly, we don't grow into creativity, Linkner says, "we grow out of it."
He offers four ways to inspire your creative juices:
1. Encourage courage. 
"Fear strips us of our creative mojo," Linkner says. Celebrate new ideas at your credit union without judgment. Mistakes can lead to breakthroughs.
2. Shed the past. 
Don't be like Polaroid, the once-giant of the camera world that ignored pleas from employees to change. The company's leaders said no to change because they didn't want to cannibalize their core business.
 "Be the cannibal--the disruptor--so you won't be cannibalized," he says.
3. Reject bureaucracy.
This is difficult in today's highly regulated industry and your traditional CFO job roles. The antidote: Think small. Think like a start-up that embraces risk, rather than avoids it.
4. Run your own race. 
Christian Louboutin designs shoes with distinctive red-lacquered soles. What's your specific color, he asks? 
"Unlock the 'creative' line on your balance sheet," Linkner told the group. 
"Stick your finger in the eye of the status quo and seize the opportunities waiting outside the door."

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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