Innovation and Participation Killers: Three Phrases Leaders Should Never Use
Creating a culture that breeds and nurtures innovation is important in today’s global economy. Employees are increasingly mobile, and Generation Y and Z employees, in particular, aren’t afraid to leave and find new jobs if they don’t feel valued.
If you want to retain good employees, attract talent, and cultivate an environment of participation, creativity and innovation, DO NOT use these three phrases.
Stick to your job. That’s not in your job description.
Want to make an employee feel that they have no use beyond their immediate job description? These phrases kill any organizational buy-in and stop any incentive the employee had to think of ideas outside of their immediate scope. This tells employees that their thoughts have no value to the organization as a whole, and that the only thing that is important is their singular function.
Instead, ask questions.
- How do you see this idea fitting in with your current charge?
- How do you see this idea expanding your responsibilities?
- How do you see this idea benefiting the organization as a whole?
Asking questions gets employees to make the connections on their own, that you might want to make for them. It also can give you enhanced understanding of the employee’s vision and how it can contribute to the greater goal.
We don’t have the resources.
This phrase is commonly used by managers without regard to the consequences. When you tell an employee this, you’re also communicating that his idea isn’t worth exploring or that her contribution isn’t good enough to warrant consideration. Managers that want to increase innovation find a way to provide resources for promising and invested employees, or encourage the employee to find the resources for him or herself. They also know that creativity thrives in the face of constraint.
Instead, issue a challenge.
I don’t have the resources immediately at my disposal to approve this today; however, why don’t we think of a couple of ways we could rearrange our priorities to make your idea a possibility.
I like this idea and want to think about how it fits into our overall strategy a bit more. Come up with a few solutions for how we could integrate this idea within our current operational plan and let’s meet tomorrow to discuss.
This lets the employee know that you do value the idea, and that you want to consider how the idea could come to fruition. It also encourages the employee to invest more time in his or her idea, which will increase buy-in to the organization and to your leadership.
That’s not the way we do things here.
Want to make an employee feel like she’s on an island and not a part of the team? Use this phrase. Telling an employee that he doesn’t know the way things are done communicates two negative things: (1) that he doesn’t know the organization well and that he should, and (2) that outside ideas, perspectives and innovations are not welcome.
Although organizations have rules and policies, it doesn’t mean that they should never be re-examined. Maybe this is the time and place to do that introspection.
Instead, encourage integration.
In the past we’ve approached this idea from a XYZ perspective. However, I think this new idea has promise. Let’s see how we can integrate your solution with our existing operations to improve the organization as a whole.
You can also challenge the employee to think of those means of integration and bring them to you for a conversation.
Remember, as a leader your team’s success is your success. Foster an environment where creativity and innovation can thrive and watch your team succeed.
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