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Leading for staff engagement and innovation

There is an accepted wisdom that communication is the key to great leadership.? When people clearly understand what is required of them, and how they are contributing to the overall strategy of the organisation they will work hard and deliver outstanding results won?t they? But is that really true?

Let?s consider the case of innovation in the workplace.? You?ve communicated a desire for innovation.? You?ve explained to employees how innovation relates to their role.? You may even have provided an innovation fund to support new ideas.? Is that enough?

Set the standards and then step back

Henry Stewart of Happy Computers thinks not.? He believes that the most important thing leaders can do to promote innovation in the workplace is to trust their employees and allow them to get on with it.? This is a brave and exciting approach.? It relies on leaders believing in their people and having enough confidence in their abilities to take a step back and allow them the freedom to do what they think is best.Leaving employees alone to get on with things in their own way doesn?t come easily to many managers.? It can feel like a loss of control.? Stewart has a solution to this with the innovative ?pre-approval? system.? Pre-approval is a way of setting out upfront requirements of a task; the objective, the important constraints, the budget, who needs to be consulted, where to go for help if necessary etc. Once all parties are clear on what is required the leader signs off the project and the employee is free to meet these requirements in whatever way they think best, with no further approval required from the leader.

This can have a tremendous impact on both engagement and innovation within an organisation.? As Stewart puts it ?Pre-approval has a very positive effect on a company culture.? It encourages people to take more ownership and responsibility for their work.? It also encourages innovation and creates a culture of looking for solutions1.?

So what could you pre-approve in your organisation?? How could you think differently about the way work is structured to provide the freedom to innovate?

Part of developing a more enterprising culture within your workforce is reliant on supporting staff in developing their own ideas without judging and interfering but trusting them and enabling them to achieve through coaching and mentoring.? Our Encouraging Enterprise training programmes incorporates these ideas and many more for details please contact our office


  1. Stewart, H. (2012) The Happy Manifesto, London: Kogan Page, p11

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