News & Insight
January 2004

Making Time to Be Creative

Leslie Evans

I recently received some feedback from a client that made a great impression on me. This was a very senior person, reporting to the president of a division that contributes 20% of a company’s bottom line, and I took what she said seriously.

She told me that one of the greatest benefits of the coaching process was that it gave her time to be reflective … about herself, her job and her business.

I thought this was a very insightful perspective. I’ve known many executives who, unfortunately, look at coaching as something that consumes, rather than creates, time in their very busy schedules. Actually, people who have been coached will tell you that when their schedules become packed, the first thing they do is call their coach to help them deal with the mounting pressures.

In today’s highly competitive business environment, as the pace of change intensifies and technology compresses what little competitive advantage organizations might have over one another, you need to make time to be reflective and think creatively about your business.

And coaching, among other things, creates space in your schedule to be reflective. It also gives you an honest, experienced, objective observer with whom you can brainstorm and seek feedback on ideas you would otherwise hesitate to share with others.

Giving executives time to think creatively about their business can yield substantial benefits. My client, for example, had started a financial decision-making group within her division, and she was thinking about how to take it to the next level.

One of the roles of a coach is to listen intuitively and ask specific and strategic questions that enable senior executives to go more deeply into their thinking about key issues. So we devoted part of several coaching sessions to a discussion of this process.

Ultimately, my client not only increased the profitability of her immediate group, but her company also decided to replicate her approach globally in all the consumer businesses in its organization. It was a relatively small investment on the company’s part for a very big payoff.

One of the greatest believers in the power of reflective thinking is Sir Richard Branson. A multibillionaire and the founder of more than 100 businesses within his Virgin empire, he exemplifies creativity as much as anyone in business.

Branson owns a private island in the Caribbean called Necker Island. He spends three months out of the year there and says it’s his most productive time. On Necker Island, he can sit back, reflect, and generate new, creative ideas.

Most of us can’t afford an island of our own, but we can create an island of time in our schedules. And if we use that time to do a little more “right-brain” thinking, the results could be impressive.

Leslie Evans is a member of WJM Associates' executive coaching and assessment faculty.

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