Do You Want to Keep Your People? Turn Them into Co-Creators

Do You Want to Keep Your People? Turn Them into Co-Creators
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By Chris Deaver and Ian Clawson

“I don’t want to feel this way anymore.” 

“I don’t feel empowered to do my best work.”

“I’m ready to leave.”

Why would they stay? Maybe it’s time to change the relationship. Help them change their lens of seeing their world.

Do you want to keep them? Inspire them? Then empower them. 

It’s a great time to start over. You don’t need to have a massive strategy or a new program to do it. Start by showing up differently. Be more intentional. Show versus tell. Give them a different experience.

Give them permission. To build. To shape. To co-create the future. Products and services that change lives, that can change the world. Give them permission to imagine and test and to live up to Albert Einstein’s charge that, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” 

With the continuing pandemic and the challenges facing us all, times are “a changing”. And in the fast-paced world we live, things are only becoming more distracting, more dividing and with a greater lean toward indifference. Now, given every digital enticement coming at us from every direction it’s difficult to slow down and listen to your core—heart, mind, and spirit. And yet at this core is the solution to our greatest challenges. This is how we can start to inspire people. As a fragmented society, we need to become whole again.

Give them trust that empowers them, the kind that will transform their workplace. Here is how to get started:

  • Share an inspiring vision. Give them a deep purpose. A cause to believe in that’s worth pursuing. Every. Day. Something that gets them up in the morning, a vision that guides their dreams at night. What inspires you? Why do you show up every day? Instead of pushing an agenda, pull people in with a shared purpose.
  • Create space for them to build with others. Give them permission to go for it. Start building together. Too many companies have gotten stuck in the siloed way of doing work. All functional, business units, expert models focused on doing work separate from each other. This isn’t the future. And it won’t inspire people to stay or do their best work. Cut the red tape and shut down any bureaucratic nonsense.
  • Co-Create the future culture with them. People want to be part of a culture where they feel they belong, where they can build things together. Where time slows down as they get in the zone. Where they feel a sense of alignment. Doing what they’re meant to do on this earth. Unlock people’s superpowers. Create a super culture together. 

This is the path forward. Innovating how we work and live. Paving the way for new mindsets, behaviors, habits, and patterns tied to leadership and workplace cultures of the future. 

Living and leading co-creatively, we won’t be confused or distracted by the allures of short-term stock price, titles, or political power. Rather, our strength will emerge from inside us, a life-changing and world-changing force. We will feel seen and known for who we truly are at our core, as we co-create with others. And we will see the results and rewards flow naturally.

Pandemics, disasters, death, or other struggles may still hit us, but we will be immovable at our core. We won’t get sidetracked by the piles of email, or other distractions. We will see our life for what it is. We will be able to step outside ourselves as we work together and measure our progress against co-creative principles. We will come to know how we can best work with others, or not. And still see a world full of potential and inspiring possibilities.

We can see self-inflation for what it is—a trap that has failed us. We won’t need a bat signal to tell us we’re needed. To save the day. To build the future. It’s already in our hearts. We can feel it. 

“Leadership is not defined by the exercise of power but by the capacity to increase the sense of power among those led. The most essential work of the leader is to create more leaders.” – Mary Parker Follett

Mary Parker Follet saw the future of what culture and leadership could be. In the 1800s. Like someone from the future, planting seeds of wisdom well before its time. She became a personal consultant to President Teddy Roosevelt, and her ideas have heavily influenced the growth of future-oriented businesses like Toyota, Apple, and Pixar. She saw the potential in synthesis leadership. How we could unify by making a difference in each other’s lives, in how we inspire brave conversations. 

This is the way of the Co-Creative Leader who inspires people to be Co-Creators.

Co-Creative Leadership

This is a space that we all feel. One way or another, we’ve experienced firsthand the good, the bad, the ugly of leadership. Some people have horror stories of the pain managers have caused. Thoughtless, cruel things they’ve said. Harsh words. Control. 

And yet, many of us have had leaders who’ve inspired us. What did they do differently? And what’s the future they were living?

Performance Management

Reactive Leadership: “Let’s talk about your performance. Here’s what you did well…Here’s what you’re not doing well…”

Proactive Leadership: “Thank you for the good work on that project. We can see your progress. What areas do you want to focus on for improvement?”

Co-Creative Leadership: “What can I do better as your leader? How can we work together and collaborate better? What obstacles are in your way that I can help remove?”


Reactive Leadership: “Here’s my agenda for today. I need this from you, and that from you. Why isn’t that thing done yet? Seriously?”

Proactive Leadership: “It’s great working with you all. Thank you for the work you’re doing. How can we continue to improve that project? Let’s keep the conversation open and work on it.”

Co-Creative Leadership: “How’s everybody doing today? Let’s take a few minutes and hear from everyone as they check in. What are the biggest challenges you’re facing right now? How can we best support each other to be successful in our shared purpose? Let’s build on what we’ve learned, and where we’re headed next. Remember, this is a co-creative conversation. What should we work on next?”

Shaping a Vision

Reactive Leadership: “Alright. We just need to get it done. I don’t care what it takes! It doesn’t seem like this group is focused. We need to do a better job at executing.”

Proactive Leadership: “If we focused on achieving one thing well this year, what would that be? How can you achieve that?”

Co-Creative Leadership: “What purpose would make you feel the most inspired to do your best work? How can we describe that in a simple, yet powerful way?”

 Transforming the Culture

Reactive Leadership: “Get over it. It’s time to change. Adapt or die.”

Proactive Leadership: “What’s going through your mind right now? I understand that change is hard, and I want to be there for you as we’re moving through this. What can you do to improve the situation? And how can I help?”

Co-Creative Leadership: “What if you were leading this company, what would you do differently? – I love that. How can we bring those solutions to life together?”

When it comes down to it, co-creation is simple. It starts with a new mindset and the courage to try new things with others. It’s about building a different future together. We see examples of this in places where people are open to changing their mind, where they let every voice matter, and where they stay committed to inspiring each other into becoming a force for good.

How will you connect better with the people on your team? 

Will you be brave enough to share your big ideas and dreams with others? And let people share theirs with you?

How will you make service core to your life and leadership?

Chris Deaver & Ian Clawson are co-founders at; a leadership consultancy that’s shaping the future by helping leaders be more creative and creatives be better leaders.

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