why your best performers hate your great idea

Why Your Best Performers Hate Your Great Idea

You’re convinced you’ve got a great idea that you know will yield breakthrough results.  So you call the team together to announce the new direction.

But instead of being met with a spirited “game on,” your top performers are staring at you with a bewildered look and you’re pretty sure your operations manager just texted WTF to your admin.

Are they resistant to change or just laggards on the change curve? How do you ensure your best performers are with you? What if it’s not them, but you?

4 Reasons Your Best Performers Hate Your Great Idea

If your best performers are just not picking up the great idea you’re putting down, check to see if any of these issues are at play.

1. They question your motives

The best way to ensure your team trusts your motives is to question them yourself first.

Is your great idea really an edict you’re passing along from above that you know won’t work, but you’re too afraid to speak up? Are you creating a lot of extra work to make a project look good without adding significant value to your customers? Are you asking your team to put energy into a pet project that is distracting them from their most important priorities?

2. They’re still actively working to make your last great idea work.

I recently met with “Greg,” a sales manager with a rock-star track record who described the soul-sucking problem with this analogy.

So imagine your boss tells you that the best way to win is to run up against that brick wall over there ten times and by the tenth time you should get through. You trust your boss, she’s smart, and you figure she’s in this job for a reason. So you run at the wall. By the seventh time, you realize you’re just getting banged up, so you take a step back and try to figure out some new ways to approach the wall. By the tenth time, you’re making some progress, but the wall isn’t down. You don’t want to let your boss down, so you get even more creative.

And on the fifteenth time, you break through. But she’s not looking. She’s given up on that idea and moved on to the next thing. When you say, “Hey look over here! I figured it out!” She says, “Why are you still using that old methodology? We’re doing this now. Why are you so resistant to change?” “Greg, your peers are watching you, can’t you please do what I ask?” Not one ounce of credit for making her first idea work.

3. Your great idea is a great idea, but it won’t work here.

If one of your managers has cracked the code, you think, “Why not REQUIRE EVERYONE to do it the same way, and exponentially improve your results?” I get it, I really do. When I was in my sales exec role at Verizon, I had 110 stores and 2200 employees. When I found one rock star blowing away quota, I wanted nothing more than to clone that behavior as fast as I could. And sometimes that worked like a charm (watch here to learn more),

I’m a HUGE believer in uncovering and sharing best practices. 

And yet, real success in this area requires what I call a humility loop. The great idea can become even stronger when you allow for variations on the theme. I quickly learned that no matter how brilliantly the best practice worked in Washington, DC, it was doubtful the exact same approach would work in our log cabin store in Cedar Bluff, VA.

4. Your great idea makes sense conceptually, but…

One of the biggest mistakes we see well-intentioned, gung-ho leaders make is requiring large-scale execution on an idea before thinking through the details. Great ideas do no good if they don’t work in real life. If your best performers are resistant, slow down enough to figure out why. Ask questions like:

  • How’s everyone feeling about this idea?
  • How do you think our customers will respond to this change?
  • What do you think are the biggest challenges we will face making this happen?
  • What do we need to consider to ensure this will be a huge success?

It’s true that many times even your best performers are resistant to change. After all, if it’s working, why try something new? We all know how dangerous that thinking can be. Real progress requires innovative thinking and the courage to try new things. And yet, assuming the resistance is unfounded is another slippery slope. Taking the time to truly understand the pushback and using humility loops to refine your plan, can go a long way to ensure your idea has the support it needs for long-term success.

Your turn.
How do you engage your best performers when launching a new idea?

Have you read Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results– Without Losing Your Soul?

You can also download our FREE toolkit and book group facilitator’s guide here. 


Posted in courageous cultures and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of several books: Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates (Harper Collins Summer 2020), Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. Karin –

    Thanks for the topic. I find that it is a good idea to bring a few people on board with the idea first before launching to the whole group. This gives you the advantage of working through some kinks if there are any, and get a couple promoters of the idea for when it is delivered.

  2. I like the “future state” analytical approach to a breakthrough results idea. Basically a so what question writ large that says “ok, we have done the work to achieve your breakthrough idea, where are we now?” You wonderfully articulate the resistance to change idea above and perhaps this is an expansion of it, but I do think a clear understanding of how the breakthrough impacts everything around it is worth analyzing.
    If the idea helps us sell X more widgets, we will make more money(!) and have to hire more staff, and add a new facility, and develop/maintain increased failover in our supply chain, and…. etc.
    In light of your best performers, are they best for just today, or do they fit in in the new future gained by the breakthrough idea?

    (Great post btw!)

    • Brett, thanks so much for sharing your experiences and insights. I REALLY like that idea and all the questions you have asked here. I’ve read your comment several times and imagined that approach playing out with several change scenarios I’ve been talking with clients about recently… and I see where that conversation would go, and all the good dialogue it would raise.

      Thanks for sharing a really great best practice.

  3. When it comes to new ideas, we commit to piloting. Let’s give it a try for a defined amount of time and measure what we believe is the benefits to be realized, then see what we learn. Even more helpful, is asking for volunteers to participate in the pilot, these are the folks willing to try, want to learn and be part of the process to change the idea for the better.

    • Rod, I am such a believer in a pilot. Pilots are also such a great way to win over a reluctant boss or decision maker who may be skeptical about your plan (see more about my thoughts in the link below).

      I really like your idea of asking for volunteers for the pilot (people who will be gung ho and tell you the truth). REALLY appreciate you expanding the conversation with your experiences and best practices.


  4. Involve every level of the organization to develop the change ideas. A LEAN Process Improvement model works best. In this way those most affected by the new ideas have ownership of them & take pride in their contributions.

    • Roberta, YES! Fully agree. In fact, your timing is fun on this suggestion. We are neck-deep in some really important and powerful work with a large bank doing as you describe. We’re taking their key strategic initiative and working with each AVP team (and the directors, managers and frontline leaders) to build their desired vision for their teams, identifying key behaviors needed at every level, identifying key roadblocks and building innovative solutions to achieve that vision.

      It’s always incredible how much progress can be made in a short time by getting people together in a room to really talk strategically about their ideas, and then turning that into practical plans.

      It takes a little more time to involve the people affected by the ideas, but the time saved in buy-in and getting to the right solution makes up for it.

      Thank you so much for sharing your insights and experiences here. The conversation is always richer when more people share what they’re doing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.