In my last post, I talked about research from brain science psychiatrist Dr. Edward Hallowell. In his book, Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People he suggests five steps to bring out the best in people.

I wrote about Step 1: Select: the importance of putting the right people in the right job and Step 2: Connect: the importance of trusting relationships to bring out the best in people.

Here are the last three steps.

Step 3: Play

Play isn’t limited to break time. Any activity that involves the imagination lights up our brains and produces creative thoughts and ideas. Play boosts morale, reduces fatigue and brings joy to workdays.

Encourage imaginative thinking with these steps:

  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Encourage everyone to produce three new ideas each month.
  • Allow for irreverence or goofiness (without disrespect), and model this behavior.
  • Brainstorm.
  • Reward new ideas and innovations.
  • Encourage people to question everything.

Step 4: Grapple and Grow

Help people engage imaginatively with tasks they like and at which they excel. Encourage them to stretch beyond their usual limits.

If tasks are too easy, people fall into boredom and routine without making any progress or learning anything new. Your job, as a manager, is to be a catalyst when people get stuck, offering suggestions but letting them work out solutions.

Step 5: Shine

Every employee should feel recognized and valued for what he or she does. Recognition should not be reserved solely for a group’s stars.

People learn from mistakes, and they grow even more when their successes are noticed and praised. Letting them know that you appreciate victories large and small will motivate them and secure their loyalty.

When a person is underperforming, consider that lack of recognition may be a cause. An employee usually won’t come right out and tell you that he/she feels undervalued, so you must look for the subtle signs. In addition:

  • Be on the lookout for moments when you can catch someone doing something right. It doesn’t have to be unusual or spectacular. Don’t withhold compliments.
  • Be generous with praise. People will pick up on your use of praise and start to perform for themselves and each other.
  • Recognize attitudes, as well as achievements. Optimism and a growth mindset are two attitudes you can single out and encourage. Look for others.

When you’re in sync with people, you create positive energy and opportunities for peak performance. Working together can be one of life’s greatest joys—and it’s what we’re wired to do.

In what ways do you encourage imaginative thinking? Are you providing just the right amount of challenge so that people aren’t bored? And— this is often the most difficult for busy managers— are you providing enough positive feedback?

As always, I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.