Are You a Spoilsport or a Spirit Booster?

by  Mary C. Schaefer  |  Leadership Development

woman-83155_640-eyesoverglassesWhen your employees offer ideas, your response can make or break your organization.

You don’t have time for everything. There’s a lot at stake right now, and your boss is breathing down your neck.

Your employee raises an idea in the staff meeting. You tried that idea once before. Five years ago. It was a dismal failure. Your best attempt at redirecting them is, “Let me play devil’s advocate.”

How did that go over?

Another employee stops by your office to run something by you. You have a lot on your to-do list today. Your employee schedules a meeting about development and advancement. When are you going to fit that in?

You have other priorities. Your employees don’t necessarily know that. Even if they do, your response when they enthusiastically bring up ideas shapes your organization’s morale and culture over time.

“Firings will continue until morale improves.” ~ origin unknown

When you interrupt your employees by assuming you know what they are suggesting, it chips away at their enthusiasm. When you snap at them because their idea is small potatoes in the scheme of things, they take a step back. They bring up something that needs attention that you haven’t thought of yet. You don’t need more reasons to feel you aren’t keeping up. You change the subject.

No worries. They’re learning the lesson. Message received: “Be good, but don’t be too good. Do your job. I’ll let you know when I need more from you.”

When you schedule a brainstorming session because you need ideas, don’t be surprised when you don’t get much.

Businessman Flying on Money AirplaneNo need to throw money down the drain.

Every idea your employees bring up is not going to be a winner. It may be something what was tried before and didn’t work. Your priorities may be in exactly the right place.

And yet, for the most part your employees bring up ideas and ask for your time because they want to do a good job at work, to contribute, and to make a difference. How do you juggle your employees’ best intentions in light of reality? This is one difference between you being an effective leader and throwing money down the drain by dismissing good ideas too soon and eventually grinding down their spirits to the point where they’re just giving the minimum.

How do you handle this like a leader?

The other day a client of mine modeled a beautiful way to respond. He said to me:

“I don’t want you to think I’m not interested in your ideas. I do want you to know that I can’t possibly act on all of them, or devote resources to all of them. It’s a priority thing. But the last thing I want you to think is that I’m not interested.”

Managers, you don’t have to take more on. But don’t take your frustration out on your employees. They notice. They notice everything. They follow your lead. Real leaders know this. Be real. Be respectful. Be a leader.

There are many methods to handle ideas, good and bad (on the surface), that your employees come up with — without squashing their sincere interest to make things better. How do you handle it?

Image of woman from Pixabay contributor – Public Domain Pictures

Image of man – Microsoft Clipart

About The Author

Articles By mary-schaefer
Speaker, coach and trainer Mary Schaefer’s expertise is in creating work cultures where organizations and human beings can both thrive. She is a former HR manager. Find out more about how Mary helps managers empower themselves to make the most of their human resources with this special collection of articles selected for LCG readers: http://www.reimaginework.com/LCG/  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Paul LaRue  |  09 Jun 2014  |  Reply

Mary, thank you for another spot-on post! At the core of the answer, it’s about being honest. Sometimes we try to be too saavy in our handling of our responsibilities, and we hinder our people. Whether a leader in business, the community, or even as a parent, it’s a solid piece of wisdom to follow.

As always, I appreciate your insights, Mary!

Mary C Schaefer  |  09 Jun 2014  |  Reply

Thanks, Paul. I am so interested in all of us being aware of how we hinder whose who look to us for leadership, especially when it is not deliberate. Thank you for adding to the convo.

Mary C Schaefer  |  12 Jun 2014  |  Reply

I just wanted to add this link to a great post by Cris Wildermuth titled “The Light in Your Eyes.”

Cris talks about employee engagement and those things (like I describe above) that can take the light out of your eyes. Definitely worth a look:

Jonena Relth  |  20 Jun 2014  |  Reply

Awesome post. Just today I had an employee bring a sales and marketing idea to my attention. It was in the middle of another conversation about a totally different topic. I tried to respond politely showing her that I valued her idea, but wish I had used the response you provided:

“I don’t want you to think I’m not interested in your ideas. I do want you to know that I can’t possibly act on all of them, or devote resources to all of them. It’s a priority thing. But the last thing I want you to think is that I’m not interested.”

This one goes in my “Communication Tool Kit” for sure!

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