Newsletter by Barbara Mintzer

Barbara Mintzer's Newsletter
The Power of a Vision... a Leader's Journey

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June 2004
12 Characteristics of an Innovator

This Newsletter marks the start of my second year of writing about The Power of a Vision ... a Leader's Journey.  Since this is the start of a new year for my Newsletter, I wanted to write something "innovative" to get the juices stirring.  I did some research on innovation, and found some interesting facts on both individual and organizational innovation.  What makes an individual or an organization innovative? Do you believe you have what it takes to be an innovator?  In my research I found 12 characteristics of an innovator.  Regardless of the industry you are in, the company your work for, or your position in that company, if you possess the following characteristics, you can be one of the people that "makes things happen" in your organization.

12 Characteristics of an INNOVATOR

  1. Has a compelling vision;
  2. Is opportunity oriented;
  3. Is self-disciplined;
  4. Has a positive, I CAN attitude;
  5. Is passionate;
  6. Is inner-directed;
  7. Is extraordinarily persistent;
  8. Is idea-oriented;
  9. Is a strategist;
  10. Is a trend-spotter;
  11. Takes 100% responsibility for his/her actions; and
  12. Surrounds himself/herself with positive people.

First, and most importantly, an innovator has a compelling vision.  We are living in "interesting" times today. All industries are going through the challenge of hiring, motivating and retaining key people with less resources to do so than in the past.  A key motivator of people is the belief that they are part of something better to come, and that their willingness to contribute to the vision will make that happen.  Your ability to formulate and articulate a compelling vision for your department or organization is the key characteristic of your impact as an innovator.  Even if you are not in a position to make decisions for your company or department, you can articulate your vision to the person who CAN make it happen.  If you articulate your vision with enthusiasm, spirit and passion, it is contagious!

An innovator is opportunity oriented.  He/she always seems to find an opportunity in any situation.  An innovator is an optimistic, "can do" person who is excellent at looking beyond what is happening now, to what COULD happen, and is able to find the people and situations to make it happen.  An innovator is constantly thinking about new ways of doing things and is not afraid to try something new.  He/she has enough confidence to know that if this doesn't work out, there is always another way to do it. Innovators always seem to be the lucky people, however, their luck comes from their ability to sense an opportunity and go for it.

An innovator is self-disciplined.  He/she knows that it takes self-discipline to achieve results.  It takes the ability to do the hard work to make it happen.  Innovators are able to prioritize their time so that they are doing the important work first.  I learned the "art" of self-discipline when I started traveling on the road as a professional speaker. A number of my friends said I was so lucky to be working in such a glamorous career, however, they had no idea of the discipline involved.  In order for me to be my best, I had to maintain a strict schedule of early to bed the night before my talk.  I had to be very careful of what I ate the day before as well as the morning of my talk.  I had to make sure my entire 90-minute talk was memorized and I had to pray that I didn't get a cold or some other ailment before I had to speak.  A speaker always lives in mortal fear of not being able to get up in front of a group and give the talk the people came to hear.  I practice that same discipline to this day.

An innovator is truly passionate about what he or she believes.  When you look at highly successful people, you will see the one commonality is the passion they have for what they are doing.  They give it everything they have.  Passionate people are not people who dabble in a number of things, or have many interests.  Passionate people are usually passionate about one thing, and they go after that with all their hearts and souls.  They put all their efforts in achieving that one thing, and are totally focused on that.  It is the ability to focus, which is driven by passion, that results in their achievements.

An innovator is inner-directed.  Nobody has to tell an innovator what to do ... he/she intuitively knows what to do.  Because of the self-discipline and ability to focus, innovators get up in the morning and get going.  They are inner-directed and goal oriented and do not need anyone else to motivate them.  Inner direction is a key characteristic organizations look for when promoting people up the corporate ladder.  Needless to say, the visionary is inner-directed, and will do what it takes to achieve the vision.

An innovator is extraordinarily persistent.  Like the Energizer Bunny, the innovator just keeps going.  He/she does not let obstacles get in the way.  An innovator is committed to achieving the goals, period.  It is this commitment and persistence that makes even the loftiest of goals achievable.

"Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.
It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions.
And the actions which speak louder than words.
It is making the time when there is none.
Coming through time after time, year after year.
Commitment is the stuff character is made of;
the power to change the face of things.
It is the daily triumph of integrity of skepticism."

Author Unknown

An innovator is idea-oriented.  He/she is always thinking of new ways to do things.  Innovators are the life-blood of an organization because they are the ones who come up with solutions to problems and are not afraid to try them out.  Innovators are always looking for the "cutting edge" ideas to help the organization stay profitable and viable.  If you don't think you are idea oriented, challenge yourself to read one new book a month.  You will be amazed at the ideas you get and the new perspectives you gain on business and life, for that matter.  This Newsletter forces me to come up with new ideas, so I am always reading books, magazines, etc., to get new information.  The Newsletter is forcing me to become idea-oriented and, after a year of writing this Newsletter, I look forward to my quiet times in the bookstore for my time of learning.

An innovator is a strategist.  He/she is always thinking of the best and most profitable way to do things.  An innovator thinks strategically ... where would be the best place for that ... what would give us the most profit ... if we do this now, how will it affect us three years from now?  The next time you have to make a decision, try thinking strategically.  What would make the most sense in this situation?  What would be the impact/consequences of this decision?  If you start thinking in those terms, you will start to develop the characteristics of a strategic thinker.

An innovator is a trend-spotter.  He/she is able to look at the changes taking place in the industry and spot the trends.  An innovator knows how to differentiate between a change and a trend.  If you know how to spot the tends in your industry, you can capitalize on the changes occurring now and use these changes to try a different way of doing things.  Case in point:  when I first started speaking 21 years ago, I was told "stick to the topic, use just a little humor and WATCH IT with the humor and, for heaven's sake, don't mention anything spiritual or emotional."  That was before 9/11 and before all the changes that have been occurring in business, health care and the world in general.  Now, these same organizations are telling me "Barbara please use a lot of humor, my people need to laugh and, be sure to give them HOPE, something to grasp on to and if it has some spiritual message to it, so be it."  I have now started to personalize my talks more, and you will see that reflected in some of the upcoming Newsletters.  It is a trend that I am very comfortable with and I think it benefits my audience as well.

An innovator takes 100% responsibility for his/her actions.  In today's world it is very tempting to play the victim and blame things on other people or situations.  However, if you want to come from integrity, you must be willing to be responsible for your actions. People respect people who step up to the plate and take responsibility for their actions.  Your employees will forgive you a lot as long as they know you are telling them the truth.

An innovator surrounds himself/herself with positive people.  KEEP AWAY FROM THE NEGAHOLICS!!!!   Negative people can drain you of all your positive energy and they can pull you down very quickly.  You can tell you've been with a negaholic if you feel drained and somewhat depressed after speaking with them for awhile.  Negative energy is very forceful and, unfortunately, very contagious.  Negaholics can be nice people, however, their outlook on life is so bleak, it can have a negative impact on you. If you work with a negaholic, smile pleasantly, chit-chat BRIEFLY, and move on.  Do not get taken in.

I have given you a lot to think about, and I would love to hear from you.  If you believe you are an innovator, what characteristics do you possess that I have not discussed.  If you have had an experience with a NEGAHOLIC that you would like to share with other readers, please e-mail me at:    You are part of my research.  Your personal situations and stories are much more interesting than just facts and would help others as well.  If you wish to pass this Newsletter along to a colleague who may find this of value, feel free to do so.  If that person would like to receive the Newsletter, e-mail me with the address, and I will put it on my database.  Have a wonderful month.

About the Author

Barbara Mintzer is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant with over 30 years in business and health care. She speaks from experience! Her how-to programs provide participants with immediately applicable skills and strategies for getting buy-in and commitment from staff and staying on top of their professions in today's competitive and constantly changing workplace. Barbara presents keynote talks and breakout sessions for international, national, regional and state Conferences. She also conducts management retreats and in-house seminars. She facilitates panel discussions and roundtables at the same meeting...a good investment for your meeting budget. To explore the possibility of having Barbara speak at your next event, or work with your staff/leadership team, please contact her office.

Phone: (805) 964-7546
FAX: (805) 964-9636

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