They’re Excited – You’re Not
Leaders who kill new ideas love living with old problems.
A manager asks, “What should I do when someone on the team is excited about an idea, but I’m not?”
Your response to imperfect ideas determines engagement, enthusiasm, ownership, gratitude, and respect for you.
All new ideas are imperfect, even yours.
10 responses to imperfect ideas:
- Listen to the idea’s story. What made you think of this idea?
- Monitor their emotions. Watch for light in the eyes. Does your culture cause idea-generators to protect themselves? Are you a nit-picker or a nay-sayer? I hope you see how foolish this is.
- Reflect the light. If they dare to light up, light up with them. Find the good in their imperfect idea.
- Clarify short-term objectives. What can your new idea accomplish this week? Short-term perspectives make it real, ignite urgency, and identify forward-moving behaviors.
- Connect short-term objectives with long-term goals. How does your idea move us toward our preferred future?
- Anticipate success. What does success look like?
- Explore danger, gently. What might go wrong? How can you prepare for contingencies? The truth about imperfect ideas is they create new challenges and problems.
- Give permission for a trial run or pilot program. Lets try it!
- Honor progress and inquire about issues.
- Establish a follow-up meeting to evaluate results. Did you achieve your short-term objectives? Would you like to keep trying? How do you need to adapt?
The old problem you’re trying to solve requires new ideas.
- Respect for their idea feels like respect for them.
- Anticipated or imagined problems that kill new ideas are usually exaggerations.
- When you meddle in their new idea, ownership migrates to you.
- When they own it, they make it happen.
The question is will it help, not, is it perfect.
What responses to imperfect ideas keep the ball rolling?
How much imperfection is too much?
If the worst problem your business has is new yet imperfect ideas being brought forward, you are likely better off than the leader who has none… fostering an environment that respects and encourages innovation and celebrates the voices of everyone on the team results in nimble reactions to change… and that is a critical business need.
Thanks Chris. I couldn’t agree more. I see leaders who wonder why they aren’t getting more new ideas from the team. But, when you ask how they respond to new ideas, they realize they put people down. We need an idea generating policy that includes our responses to new ideas.
If the answer in the manager’s mind to your “will it help” question is clearly “no,” you cannot allow energy to be spent on an unhelpful idea just to foster engagement. I have found that asking the question, “what problem is your idea trying to solve?” is very useful. In most cases, you will agree with the problem and can then say, I agree that is a problem, let’s see if we can find a solution together. You can then say some of the reasons why you don’t favor the idea suggested. You are then not the blocker of the idea, but on the same side as the idea-suggester, looking for a solution. You then must be open to finding a better answer.
Thanks Pete. Your insights are important to this conversation. Today, I’m pushing the idea that most managers are way too fast to push against an idea that has merit. When they do, it dies and people learn to keep their mouths shut.
Yes, there are many managers who are too fast to reject a good idea and I understand the point of your post. There are also good managers who aren’t resisting new ideas, but don’t like some of the ideas suggested and don’t know how to handle it.
I was trying to give both of these types of managers an alternative approach to solving problems together.
I’m thankful you adding your comments.
Spot on, Dan! Habitually putting down new ideas can dampen the enthusiasm and engagement of even the most passionate employees. One thing I learned working for such a boss was that “timing is everything.” The idea that is rejected out of hand today may be embraced in two weeks or two months, so don’t give up! Keep plugging away and refining those new ideas. Anticipate skepticism and have answers for the inevitable questions that will be thrown your way.
Thanks Jim. It’s too bad that people have to navigate bosses in the way you did. It should be the other way around.
Nailed it Jim, don’t give up on championing good ideas!
This is a good one for me to remember with Blake. I have to be on his team and be excited for him even if I’m not excited about the actual idea. Remind me of this when I don’t follow these rules ☺
I’ve had a situation where a solution which doesn’t solve problems (only adds more complexity), I’ve invited others to give insight as to how the solution helps then team comms has rapidly shutdown. I feel I’ve been inviting of opinion, but when pushed to justify my position highlight that my questions have remain unanswered.
I really dislike the situation which has now arisen – that no-one seems empowered to give their opinions, how can I “reboot” things so everyone feels empowered to express their thoughts freely?
Thanks for the tips.
As someone in software testing, I typically “test” ideas presented to me and come up with ways that they could fail. I guess I need to use a different style and not shut down these new ideas.
Is there a way for them to test it? Or you test it but let them be involved? If they are the ones who find the flaw it could lead to a different solution or at minimum they would make sure that same flaw didn’t effect their next idea.
Yup! That’s gonna be the new perspective that I have to keep in mind when getting new ideas 😉
Really good post, there are a few methods I haven’t used before I will be trying out. My normal response is to praise the creative initiative. Then request they submit a basic process flow with the improvements the have thought of, but they have to include 3 risks areas in the process. At least one of the risks has to be directly connected to the change(s) they want to see. It makes them take a deeper look into the process making sure they aren’t just trying to make the job less work for them. We want to simplify but only if it maintains or improves quality.