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Key Equipment Finance leader talks “The Human Side of Innovation"

By Amy Thomas in Thought Leadership Posted October 25, 2022

shutterstock_1792768900Building a team that is ready for the future requires an investment and commitment in innovation, according to a recent Monitor Live panel entitled “Human Side of Innovation: Skill Building for a Future Ready Team.”

Senior leader of strategy at Key Equipment Finance Jen Martin took part in the panel with three other leaders from various organizations: Jeffrey Bilbrey, CEO at Leasepath; Joe Leonard, President and CEO of Oakmont Capital Services and Tirza Hollenhurst, CEO of LUMAN. The panel was moderated by Deb Reuben, CEO and Founder of Tomorrow Zone.

Enabling innovation in your company

The panelists discussed how they enable innovation within their own companies and highlighted what their own specialties were within that.

“I think listening is the number one key to getting to the bottom of any particular issue,” Martin said. “Once we understand where that root cause is, that’s where the development and growth starts to begin. Our job as leaders is to really get to the bottom of any fear or hesitancy and offer opportunities to learn. We need to assure teams that we’re all in this space, we’re all learning at the same time and we don’t have all the answers and hopefully that gives them a safe space to grow.”

Hollenhurst added, “First it’s what is the process we are taking and how do we build our pipelines to ensure the ideas we are investing in are ones that are worthwhile and then how do we need to be with each other in order to make innovation a continuous possibility. We are supporting organizations in understanding the major mindshift changes that we need to make.”

Building a team to be future-ready

The moderator, Reuben, highlighted one of the goals of encouraging innovation is that companies can build employees who are ready to take on the challenges of the future. The panelists discussed what it takes to build a team that is future-ready, especially within a time of so many changes.

“It’s important that there’s a layer of understanding of the organizational purpose,” Martin said. “As part of the leadership team, you understand the strategic plan for the organization, but unless everyone understands how they can contribute to the success of that strategy, I don’t know that they fully get invested in its success.”

Martin said it’s important to allow employees to chime in and provide feedback on the overall company strategy, which allows them to have opportunities to become part of the process. “When you are a part of implementing something, you’re always a part of it moving forward,” Martin added. “As it innovates, you become part of the fabric of it and that brings you in even more.”

Bilbrey talked about the importance of investing in your employees. “Investing in the person before you invest in the thing is really important,” he said. “Sometimes when you apply funds, you have to be ready for the idea that it may not show dividends right away. In fact, it might show up later in places you don’t expect.”

Inspiring curiosity among team members

The panelists discussed how you can inspire curiosity within your team members, and how you can encourage your teams to embrace life-long learning.

Martin talked about how a Key Equipment Finance employee offered feedback that there wasn’t a great way to gather feedback and it felt fragmented. The team then started a think tank or incubator, a small group that would have conversations about where things were headed. “The goals were small,” Martin said. “Just be curious, have conversations, learn more and eventually we might land on something.” Martin said the group has grown over time and is a great example of how curiosity is being sparked within teams, and that curiosity inspires others to join.

Leonard added that having a diverse set of voices is important to encourage curiosity. “You’ll get a diversity of thought by having people from every division included. You benefit by embracing what’s going to work,” he said. “It’s not always the next shiny thing that’s out there.”

Overcoming wrong turns

The panel talked about how leaders can sometimes get it wrong and what it takes to overcome those wrong turns.

“There’s oftentimes an assumption of hierarchy within an organization and as leaders, we think we have to come to the table with all the answers,” Martin said. “There’s an opportunity for leaders to step into conversations with teams and with individuals, listen to them, ask probing questions and offer coaching along the way.” Martin referenced Brene Brown’s concept of power with rather than power over. “It’s our job to help enable the success of people within our teams so the hierarchy of the past is gone. We can be very strong leaders if we enable the power in the team,” Martin said.

Hollenhurst added that innovation is no longer something that happens alongside your core business, but it is your core business. “It’s not about how we’re getting it wrong, but how we’re looking at redefining what’s not working and evolving it,” Hollenhurst said.

The panel wrapped up by offering their hopes about what people would take from the discussion, including: learning the language of innovation, continuing in a forward direction, maintaining a curious mindset and being kind to yourself and your teams.


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