5 Ways to Get Employees to Share Their Ideas
Every good manager knows ideas are like gold. And—like gold—they can be hard to find. You know your employees must have some great ones. But you never seem to hear them. Could it be your employees are reticent about sharing? Here are five things you can do to mine for those golden nuggets in your own company:
#1: Don’t be a fault finder.
Sometimes even the best ideas don’t work out. That’s just the way it is. If you consistently lay blame when things don’t work out, you can expect your employees to keep their ideas to themselves.
#2: Keep your mind open, really open.
Don’t ask for ideas unless you’re ready to hear them. If employees think you already (think you) know the answer, why would they bother to risk giving you their ideas? This goes double if you nitpick whatever ideas emerge. Listen, consider, and respond thoughtfully. That’s how ideas develop.
#3: If you’re the boss, don’t present your solutions first.
When the boss puts an idea out there, the usual response from employees is what? Agreement, right? That may be true even if they think the idea is dumb as mud. If you want their ideas, don’t talk first; hang back and listen.
#4: Don’t punish failure.
Of course you need to punish misdeeds, but failures are different than misdeeds. If you implement an idea and it doesn't work, everyone learns from the experience and moves on. If what the employees learn is that having ideas is dangerous, you can expect they will stop having them.
#5: Don’t defend. Don’t accuse.
If someone says, "I think we should change how we do X," is your immediate response, "What's wrong with the way we do it now?" And if someone says, "Darn it, the server is down," do you respond, "What did you do to it?!?!" Because both of those responses encourage people to keep their mouths shut. If you want your people to speak up, you need to create an environment where things that are new and different aren't immediately rejected and mistakes are not the end of the world.