Are your ideas going down the drain?

Collaboration and respect are the cornerstones of great teamwork and every high performing team shares these attributes. Yet sometimes the practice of challenging ideas and speaking up gets lost, and creativity and innovation start to flail.

This leads to an unhealthy habit of team members no longer being proactive about their opinions, as often they feel that their leader is only giving lip service to the ideas or even worse, are ignoring their suggestions.

In many cases, the leader doesn’t realise that the once open culture has turned into a place where people fear to speak up.

Problem solving is crucial to the success of a business, its teams and individuals’ perceptions of their worth in the workplace. And luckily, once leaders realise that people are too worried about being open with their feedback, there are ways to transform the culture back to a space where ideas flow and the right action is taken.

Process

A simple idea which could be run on a quarterly basis is a ‘Stop, Start, Continue’ session where all team members can offer up ideas and improvements. This starts to build a culture of sharing and talking through ideas. Keeping the team to these promises, which also includes the manager, and reporting back on actions and results is key to ongoing success.

Often when businesses expand or a manager gets more direct reports, time pressure increases and people feel like they can no longer wander into their leader’s office and suggest improvements. Leaders need to make time – whether it’s built into the agenda of regular one-on-ones, or time is giving to problem solving as a group in team meetings. They need to demonstrate that even though they are busy, encouraging collaboration is important to them.

Listen

One of the greatest (and simplest) skills leaders can possess is the act of listening. Resist the urge to interrupt team members during their ideas sharing. At the end you can demonstrate that you have actively been listening and also encourage them to think deeper by asking questions about their suggestions and encouraging them to take this thinking to the next level. It’s often at this stage where a leader feels they need to provide the answer or solution. But even if you know what could help, asking the right questions so that people work things through themselves is important.

Act

You don’t need to address every single idea that a team member has. But do take the time and respect to acknowledge the feedback, process it and share next steps with your team, even if it is only to say why you won’t be moving forward with a particular suggestion.

Feedback

Finally, recognition for team members who challenge things in a positive way for the organisation should be rewarded. Everyone feels a warm glow when they receive positive feedback, especially in front of their peers. The great thing about practising feedback is that after a while it becomes second nature. This also encourages team mates to give feedback to each other too.


Process, listen, act and provide feedback. These are four simple, but critical, steps towards driving a collaborative, high-performing culture.