Human Resources

Creative Fire Can Propel CUs to Greatness

Cirque du Soleil creative director shares how to ignite the spark within.

July 17, 2013
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Credit union employees can compare themselves to the artists and athletes who launch themselves beautifully, almost magically, through the air on a Cirque du Soleil stage, says Lyn Heward, Cirque’s director of creation and author of “The Spark: Igniting the Creative Fire that Lives Within Us All.”

She’ll address CUNA’s America’s Credit Union Conference next month in New York City.

Heward tells News Now that, for their own good and the good of the credit union movement, credit unions must kindle their employees' creative fire to set them apart from the competition.

In some ways, she says, Cirque is like any organization. It attracts both tough-minded practitioners—athletes with years of training behind them—and creative artists, who have the same amount of determination as the practitioners but a “broader focus on the world around them.”

It is the diversity of tools that these employees bring, Heward says, that builds a successful operation. And it is every manager’s job to recognize “we are all creative” and to help open employees’ minds to the idea of pushing boundaries and “using the tools of the past to build a better future.”

That, she says, is why employees’ creativity is so vital to every organization.

“We all have competition,” Heward says, adding that part of what makes Cirque—or any organization—better is acknowledging that they’re fighting a competitive battle, knowing there are other things out there for people to do, or see, or access.

“It’s not what you do now that will bring you into the future,” she says. “It’s having a vision of what you want to become; how you can evolve and add to your relationships with members and your communities.”

Heward says every organization must gear its creativity directly to its purpose. “Show your members what steps you have taken to serve them better.”

It’s a manager's job, she says, to both inspire and acknowledge team members. Creativity won’t flourish without these elements.

Leaders can inspire teams in many ways, even by simply encouraging them to change things up: eat something different for lunch or take a different route to work—anything to get their creative brains out of their “regular track.”

Another tip: Not all ideas work, at least not the first time around.

But by encouraging employees to fire off many creative ideas all the time, managers will have a deep pool of resourcefulness from which to fish at all times.

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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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