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Creating Successful Leaders

Brainstorming_Young_iStock_4653977XSmallOne of my favorite parts of business is brainstorming. I love getting all my people in a room together and letting them unleash their ideas and opinions. The energy level in these types of meetings is usually sky high, as laughter and enthusiasm for upcoming projects abound.

I’ve had a lot of experience conducting successful brainstorm sessions, but there was a time when I wondered whether these types of meetings were useful. After all, how often do they result in off topic digressions, scattered tidbits and unorganized, unfocused planning? A bit too much, if truth be told.

I had to learn that as the person guiding the brainstorming, it was my responsibility to keep the ideas pushing forward toward the end objective. To do that, I developed a few techniques:

1. First and foremost, keep the atmosphere light and low-pressure. Your team is with you for a reason. You trust their ability and their input. However, there are always those of us who are less eager to speak up. To get the ball rolling, make it clear that the brainstorm is a safe place to get creative without fear of judgement.

2. Lay out the objectives of the meeting beforehand. Giving your team time to think things through on their own before the meeting will help keep them focused and realistic. While improvisation and wild ideas are part of the fun of any brainstorm session, specifying clear objectives up front will enhance the meeting’s productivity.

3. Provide a visual map of the meeting as you go. I like using big sheets of paper and a box of colored markers. Friends of mine swear by a good old white board, while still others have gone digital and taken notes with a laptop and a projector. It doesn’t matter what medium you use, but I highly recommend guiding the meeting visually to keep the team from being bored, confused or disengaged.

4. Ask specific questions of each of your team members. Show them that they are valued by tailoring questions to their skill sets and asking their opinions.

5. delegate the work once a solution is reached, and email the notes you took for the team to go back to for reference.

Good luck, and have fun!

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