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  • Writer's pictureRoger Grant

How to lead teams through innovation?

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

Six-year-old rugby is a joyful game. I yell, “run faster!” while a mum next to me puts her face in her hands saying the all-time classic, “not chasing the butterflies again.” And, the kids have fun.

When six-year-olds play rugby, the pattern usually goes like this: one kid is doing the big runs, always at the right place at the right time; then, a swarm of seven to eight kids are following the ball around blindly, busy but not doing much; last, one or two kids aren’t really interested in the game, and wouldn’t grab the ball even if it’s right in front of them.

The redeeming feature of six-year-old rugby is when six-year-olds play it. It brings no joy when you watch it in the office. The sad fact is that six-year-old rugby is being played all too often in the office. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report in 2012, only 9% of the workforce in Singapore are engaged, 76% are not engaged and 15% are actively disengaged.

Six-year-old rugby creep

When organisations go through innovation cycles, whether it’s coming up with completely new customer experience or merging teams and organisations together, it pushes highly effective teams into the storming phase of team development in a heartbeat.

One minute you’re playing like the All Blacks, the next you’re playing like six-year-olds.

If the team doesn’t progress quickly back to a highly effective team, talents are left with two choices: either they remain in the status quo, going nowhere, or they get-up-and-go. Your best talent will leave.

Innovation is disruptive. When a client from the banking industry moved to a new team, the bank’s CEO told him, “I don’t want you to slow down. I want the rest (of the team) to speed up.”

When you need to innovate, how do you rally your team to fight the good fight?

Leadership is deliberate

In my view, there are three stages in an innovation cycle

Often during innovation cycles, we fail to focus on Leadership. Teams end up jumping into Product and Service Design, burning buckets of cash, time, and people’s souls in the process.

Successful innovation is grounded in the right leadership, stops people from picking up everything that comes their way and prioritise what’s important.

How to get Leadership for Innovation right?

1. Lead with Purpose

Get everyone operating from a shared purpose and goals. This enables every team member to know their highest contribution in achieving the goals.

2. Lead with Culture

Culture is what your people believe and how they behave. It impacts how your team get things done in the face of uncertainty.

3. Lead with People

The right leadership inspires people to do their great work. Their passion, purpose, and power fuels the team’s innovation.

The goal of the leadership phase is to get everyone into a “stay ready” mindset, where hard work leads, with the least resistance, to the achievement of the team's goals.

Best to let your competitors be distracted with infighting, not you.

If you need help to move people to lead themselves and others through innovation - drop me an email. 

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PERSONNA is a leadership development company focused on the people side of transformation. We hold a simple belief that everyone is an extraordinary and powerful force for positive change. When you make work personal, naturally you become a better leader.

We’re here to help people become better leaders, build highly-effective teams, and create a culture of trust & collaboration in their organisations. We provide leadership branding, leadership coaching and group experiences. If you are curious to learn more drop us an email to

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