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Your Ideas Come Second

March 3, 2021


Hey, it's Jonathan. Hope you're having a good day today.

As you know, I spend a lot of my time talking with leaders and managers, sometimes senior managers, executives, and frontline managers too, and I'm always listening for patterns. What are the things that people are talking about? What's front of mind for people as they're leading and managing their teams?

And something that's come up a lot, half a dozen times in the last few days, is leaders and managers who are asking for help on how do I get more innovation? How do I get new and fresh ideas out of my team? I feel like it's always my ideas that we're executing. And one of the questions that I will often ask is, well, how are you going about getting those new ideas, and it's uncovered a pattern that I wanted to share with you. And a really simple way that you can try to turn this around on your team.

What I noticed a lot of people do is they go into a meeting, or they start an email thread, or slack or teams message. And they say to their teams, something to the effect of Hey, everybody, here's what I think we should do about X, what do you think? So just sit you imagine you're on the receiving end of that for a moment, and you're not the manager, but you're the direct report, what's going to happen?

Well, the most likely outcome—there's two—one is you're going to default, to following through and doing and thinking about the thing that your manager suggested as the way forward. And the corollary to that is, you might be more reluctant. Depending upon your team, you might be more reluctant to share an idea that is different, potentially counter to that idea. So if you want to get if you truly want the ideas and the innovation, and the hopefully, hey, even half baked ideas from your team, because the best ideas are half baked at the beginning. You have to change that up.

And so instead of saying to your team on that phone call meeting, zoom, whatever, instead of saying, here's my idea, what do you think, I want your ideas to just turn around and just say, Hey, I have an idea. But rather than me sharing my idea, first, I want to get your ideas on the table. Because it's not, it's just the way it happens, right? If I share my idea, everyone's going to focus on that. And it's going to make it a little bit harder to kind of give equal weight to some other ideas that might be different, or might be countered.

So by you stepping back for those of you who are thinking of good authority in your heads, which I know is many of you. It's another way that you can be more Yoda, less superhero. You're not being opaque. It's not like you're hiding the fact that you have an idea. You're not being manipulative—you're just saying, hey, look, I know that my idea is going to carry extra weight because it's coming out of my mouth. So I'm gonna wait and I'm gonna get your ideas first.

Give that a shot and watch what happens.

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