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Why Leaders Should Encourage Thinking Outside The Box

My wife and I own four Aqua-Tots swim schools in central Texas. While I travel every week on behalf of Neillie Leadership Group clients, I have a rock-star team of leaders managing these four schools and the more than 100 aquatic coaches and team members who serve our families.  Last year, we did more than 120,000 swim lessons at these four year-round, child-friendly indoor swim centers. I love what our swim center teams do!

Recently, I had the privilege of spending a day at one of our schools. What a great day! Kids were loving their coaches and lessons, parents were pleased with the progress their children were making, the facility looked great, our team members were all on their “A” games.  I loved what I saw. Speaking of what I saw: when I stepped into the manager’s office, I saw this sign on one of the cupboards:

One of the managers who does a great job leading this school smiled at me when she saw me taking a picture this sign.  She and I both know one of the marks of a good leader is that good leaders don’t solve the problems for their team members.  They encourage team members to think for themselves, risk failing but also create the potential for success.

A few years ago, one of our other swim schools was struggling with community visibility.  That school’s manager proposed we do some radio advertising – an idea I thought was not a good use of time and money. Nevertheless, he made a compelling case for giving it a try.  We gave it a try, and it didn’t work. But it wasn’t a failure, it was simply a good learning. In fact, that same manager was creative enough to try some marketing ideas with the 4-foot-tall “ducky” I bought ten years ago when we first launched Aqua-Tots in Austin.  My duck was an over-exuberant total waste of money on my part – until it started being featured in this managers marketing campaigns such as, “Quack Quack! Fast Track Swim Lesson Week is Back!” and other creative ways.

“Think outside the box” is a philosophy we invest into our team members.  We don’t just want them to come to us with problems. We want them to think creatively and come to us with ideas.  Sometimes these ideas are good. Sometimes these ideas are not so good. But what you and I always need to celebrate as leaders is when our team members think on their own and come with solutions, not just issues.

Fellow leader – what are you doing to encourage your team members to think outside the box and look for solutions, not just problems?

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