Do you recall the scene in Top Gun when Cougar tells his superior, “I’m holding on too tight. I’ve lost my edge.”? I think about that line a lot! It has been a scene that pops into my head every time I see an employee hesitate to show up in their full genius for fear of repercussions (it also confirms me as an overly impressionable 16 year-old in 1986). A manager lobs out an idea and asks for feedback/input and then…everyone agrees it’s the greatest idea since portable Nutella.
Cougar got freaked out by a feigned aggressive maneuver- a threat. The aggressor was just making the point that “he could if he wanted to”. I find it incredible that so many employees react the same way and it makes me wonder if managers are creating an environment so threatening that people are turning in their wings and choosing to play it safe on terra firma. From my experience, that is exactly what is happening.
Unfortunately, the impact is catastrophic as managers create an echo chamber. They cannot inject get fresh ideas into the conversation because, at some point, there is the only one mind at work. This is not to say that all managers are doing this consciously. The practice is taught- top down- in many organizations. There becomes an unhealthy worshipping of VP+, then those senior leaders fall victim to their own ego. They never challenge the “Yes People”. I mean, really…how can someone (whether a frontline employee or senior leader) not get suspicious when his/her ideas are always accepted? It is obvious pandering!
To break the spell and provide your employees the space to share ideas. It starts with true humility (not that, geez-I’m-not-the-smartest-person-in-the-room crap). That means that leaders need to be the LAST to speak, not the first. They should offer up the problem and let the team chew on it. Openly. Without judgement. No limit thinking.Celebrating creativity. Cheering on wildly fantastic ideas.
And then let them implement THEIR idea, regardless if you think it is the “best” one. Why? Because an 80% effective solution executed with 110% buy in will beat a 110% idea executed with 80% effectiveness any day. If you are a leader trying to get buy in to your ideas and cannot figure out why they aren’t landing, read the last line a few more times.
When you build a culture of openness, idea-generation, safe spaces for wildly fantastic thoughts, you will get the best from your employees. Be careful of shutting down conversation for the sake of speed.Watch out for “Yes People” as they playing the ego game and perpetuating a culture of fear. Listen for your own voice and be wary of the echo chamber! Be humble. Talk Last. Celebrate crazy. Do all of this and your employees will gladly leap forward to give you their best ideas.
Leaders, you need employees to be “ALL IN”. The 3 Biggest Employee Gaps you are facing today:
- Fear of Standards
- Old School Development
- “Gripping” employees
Don’t let these stop you from growing your organization. Lean in to help through standards. Develop your employees consistently, actively, intentionally. Create space for your employees to bring their genius to work.