How to increase ideas and reduce complaints right now
Friday, March 10, 2017
As leaders, we have the luxury of making and implementing decisions rather quickly. Instead of having to convince layers of people above us why something is a good idea, we need only convince ourselves it is worth doing.
The problem arises when implementing good ideas conflicts with our modus operandi. In such cases, if we take a minute to listen, we will hear ways to increase ideas and decrease complaints that we can implement right away.
Don't shoot the messenger
Complaints can serve as the early warning signals of real problems. Unfortunately, there are two inherent problems with complaints.
First, it is tough not to be annoyed by, shut down or defend against someone who raises a complaint. Second, because complaints and those providing them have a negative connotation, some comments will never be voiced out of fear they will be heard as complaints and the informer labeled a complainer.
Yet, if we get out of our own way, a complaint can yield valuable information. To mine that information, we must limit judging the employee raising the issue and simply hear her out.
By setting aside the perception we already have of the employee, we can more objectively judge the issue that she raises without including any bias we have about her. That is not to say we do not ultimately consider what we know of her, the context surrounding the complaint and other associated information; but we do need to separate each and consider them independently at first to avoid the possibility that we are ignoring the boy who cried wolf.
Don't be a bubble boy
From our perch high atop the company ladder, we also enjoy the ability to create our own reality. We hire and surround ourselves with employees that support our goals, habits and drive in the name of success.
That is not a problem if we have incorporated a way for those employees to express concerns as they arise. But, stating we have an open door is not sufficient.
As Hal Gregersen notes in this Harvard Business Review article, "Bursting the CEO Bubble," we must be OK with being wrong, comfortable with being uncomfortable and at ease with being quiet. To do so, we need to understand our own approach to failure and start asking ourselves more challenging questions.
After all, if we are not ready to question what we do, how can we expect someone who reports up the chain to us to do it?
To increase the space for ideas to percolate up and decrease complaints, we must create an environment that encourages robust processing of issues and ideas. We must find ways to create a system that supports discourse, particularly constructive discourse, so employees feel comfortable speaking their minds, listening to others do so and then working together to incorporate both contributions appropriately.
By doing this at the highest levels, we set the example for leaders down the ladder to do the same. This creates a work environment that includes transparency and critique as normal operating procedures which in turn affords everyone the opportunity to convey concerns about potential issues earlier rather than later.
The bottom line is we must consider what we are doing to block the advancement of real issues. Once we start to listen openly to employees bringing forth complaints; listen to the sound of someone else’s voice instead of ours all the time; and listen to the challenging questions running through the back of our mind, we will begin to hear more helpful information.
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