How You Respond Sends a Powerful Message
You don’t just want ideas from your team. You want ideas you can use. And let’s be real—sometimes the ideas are so wacky, you might even be fighting back a sarcastic chuckle. Here’s a proven, human-centered “how to respond” technique that recognizes the effort while providing information to help them contribute more relevant ideas in the future.
How to Train Your Team to Bring You Better Ideas
In almost every Courageous Cultures leadership development program we do we get this question.
“Karin and David, I think these tools are great, but my problem isn’t that I don’t get ideas from my team. I get too many of them. And I’ve got to tell you, some of them are pretty wacky. There’s no way I can use them. How do I respond to them without shutting them down, or wasting a lot of time?”
Respond with Gratitude, Information, and an Invitation
First, you get more of what you and encourage and celebrate and less of what you ignore. Even if this idea is half-baked or wacky, the next one might be a game-changer. How you respond matters.
Start with gratitude and thanking them for their contribution.
“Thanks so much for spending time thinking about this.”
Or, “I can tell you really care about this project, thank you for thinking about how to make it better.”
Or, simply. “Thank you!”
Now if the idea is wacky, this next “how to respond” step is critical. Because you want the next ideas they bring you to be more on target.
One of the biggest reasons for bad ideas is that employees don’t have enough clarity or strategic context to offer a relevant idea (see also, 7 strategic questions your team should be able to answer).
If an idea is off base you can provide information about why.
“That idea would be really interesting if we were planning to expand our leadership training programs to include training llamas. But for now, we are focused on training humans on human-centered leadership.”
Or, “That idea would be really interesting if we had five million dollars. In this case, we’ve got five hundred.”
Knowing this information, I’d love to hear what ideas you have.
When you respond to ideas using gratitude, information, and an invitation, you teach critical thinking and problem solving, promote psychological safety and improve the chances of a better idea in the future.
Respond with Regard: a Tool You Can Use
How Do I Respond to An Idea (Even if I Can’t Use It?)
You may also enjoy this feature (and interview with Karin Hurt) in CIO Magazine, 5 Myths of IT Culture Change (on pages 23-27).
What are your favorite “How to Respond” Techniques?