Front-Line Employees tend to have fantastic ideas that would benefit customers, their coworkers, leaders, and the organization as a whole. They’re typically the ones closest to the problem, can quickly identify the friction, and provide solutions. However, due to poor delivery, poor timing, and/or limited understanding of how the system works behind the scenes… the idea never get wings and crashes and burns horribly. A leadership truth we must recognize before employees learn how to share an idea is… You enhance your leadership, your people, and your organization when you teach your people HOW to approach you with ideas!
This sounds so simple… and it is; yet many leaders fail to do it! Why? Believe me, it’s not malicious… this lack of teaching occurs for several possible reasons. As a leader, we unconsciously think our people should know how to share their ideas and approach us… notice the two Danger-Words “unconsciously” and “should”. We thought we told them… Phantom Conversations are a thing, but have no place in Leadership! We assume it’s common sense and easy for our people to bring up their idea, share their idea, and for our people to accept their idea being rejected with no problem… That’s laughable upon reading! Or, we think everyone will naturally do what we did when sharing ideas and advancing professionally… why not, right? I could go on, but you get the point.
The problem with these assumptions are… your people are not you, cannot read your mind, and you truly have no idea the experiences they’ve endured professionally before working for you and with you! As a Professional Speaker and Leadership Trainer, I’ve heard horror stories related to professional abuse in the workplace. Years ago, while conducting a training, a woman shared she was struggling to be proactive at work and to share ideas with her boss; to the point she was being reprimanded for it. When I inquired about her hesitation, she shared she was consistently told to “Shut the bleep up” by her old boss and other things I don’t feel comfortable writing about. I was blown away… as was her boss when hearing her story. No wonder she’d have hesitation even with a professional green light.
Another time, I conducted a Training for a company’s Leadership Cabinet and the CEO said, “I don’t know everything… that’s what my Team is for. I want people to come to me and share their concerns and their best solutions to fix the problem”. I paused and made the sign for time-out and asked, “How do you want them to do that?”. She gazed a bewildered look, so I asked, “How would you like your people to approach you… a text, an office door knock, email, Slack?”. “How would you prefer them to start the conversation?”. “What information do you need?”. Without skipping a beat, she said… I’d love for them to stop by my office or email me, share the problem, their idea, what it’s going to take to pull it off, if other departments will be included, how much will it cost, and how can we creatively make the numbers work!”. BOOM… now that’s an answer! It was surprising how many people in the room didn’t know the BLUEPRINT to best approach her; potentially dampening their Leadership, their Work/Life Harmony, and daily work experience. So, what are the 4 Keys to sharing your Blueprint with your Team?
This takes a degree of self-awareness and kindness. A Leader must know what works for them and why… and be kind enough to share it with those that report to you; making it easier for them to perform and succeed! Please remember, you’re a “Boss” and as humble as you may be as a leader; many of your people naturally tighten up when you’re around or when they have to come to you… Be Mindful and help alleviate this potential discomfort!
Help your people by sharing how you prefer to be approached… email, office visit (scheduled or unscheduled), old school phone call, text, Slack, during work hours, after work hours, etc. Know what works best for you as a leader and provide them this necessary first key of a successful Blueprint. I prefer email and office visits (in other articles and videos, I share A Leader’s Doorway… best ways to respect everyone, lead, and protect your doorway at the same time!).
My least favorites are text messages and contact on a designated work phone. For me, texting is personal and that’s for my wife, my kids, family, and friends. I don’t want to associate professional work issues with a device that’s constantly on me and ringing and dinging all day. Secondly, I’ve never been good with designated work phones. During my last stint as an employee, I was given a work phone… it was a nightmare. I prefer iPhone, it was an Android… no attack on Android. The learning curve to figure it out every time I needed to use it was annoying to say the least. In the summertime, where do I keep it… where the heck do you keep a second phone on your person? In the evening, I’d forget about it and of course miss calls and text I’d have to answer for the next day with no good reason to give. Therefore, that would be my least favorite form of contact. It’s important for me to know mine and share it, as it’s important for you to know and share yours… as your least favorite way, maybe their preferred way… leading to future professional friction that could have easily been avoided!
Help your people by sharing the way you prefer to hear their idea or concern. For example, professionally, I prefer to hear ideas in-person or through emails during work hours… beginning with, “Hi Andre, Happy Whatever Day it Is! We’ve been having an issue with ___ and this is my idea ____. I’d like to know what you like about it and anything you’d change or fine-tune?”. Personally, I’ve shared with my wife and kids… if you want my undivided attention, all you have to say is, “Dre or Dad, do you have a second; I want to talk to you about something?”. I promise, a milli-second later the TV will be off, I’ll stop typing, doing whatever I’m doing, the floor will be yours… and you will have my undivided attention and my best self! Now, it’s up to the people in your life, professionally and personally, to follow through… as well as you!
Everyone has their own definition of what’s important… and why. One of the hardest things for me to do is listen to someone talk excessively about things I don’t care about! That may sound awful and may be a part of my ADHD, but it’s the truth. I’ve gotten better over the years and I’ve shared with my Team my Leadership Style. I’m a Motivator and Visionary. I tend to have big ideas and simply want to know if my idea possible, the bullet points it would take for us to pull it off (allowing me to know how hard it is, how much patience to have, and how to best celebrate success), answer questions as I have them, we can collaborate to fine-tune on the fly as we speak and in later meetings, and off we go!!!
My point is, what information DO YOU NEED and want most from your people to allow their idea to grow wings and fly, to be fine-tuned, or politely scrapped or shelved due to poor alignment with the company’s Vision & Vision Factors. I’ve said “No’s” and “Not right now’s” to ideas that were “good” but not “right” for where we were going as a company… That’s leadership and it will be respected when you share your why, how, the plan, and challenged them to fit their idea into those parameters!
After you’ve provided the Blueprint for how your people can best approach you, they come and provide their ideas or concerns… now what? It’s crucial as a leader to share the plan and provide them the authority to see it through. What authority and to what capacity can they follow-through and make decisions before having to check with you? Is there a follow-up meeting date to review progress or will it be covered in Team Meetings or your scheduled 1-on-1’s? How will you give them credit for such a great idea and celebrate its eventual success? These are all questions that complete the Blueprint and show your people that your Blueprint actually works; enhancing not only your Leadership and work/Life Harmony… but also that of those you’re leading!
“Leaders enhance their leadership, their people, and the organization when they teach their people how to approach them with ideas… Be Mindful!”
– Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
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