Are You a Spoilsport or a Spirit Booster?

When 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.

No 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?

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