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Do your team members share their ideas with you? How can you encourage them to come up and share ideas?

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Here, Rebecca Jones, from the Red Shoe Biz Woman shares her ideas on making it easy for staff to share their ideas with you.

Do your team members share their ideas with you? How can you encourage them to come up and share ideas?

Your team members may have great ideas to help move forward, improve or increase profits. However, they don’t let you know about these ideas. Often it’s down to their belief that something might happen that would not be good for them if they bring the idea forward.

To find out about people’s ideas you need to provide safe opportunities to raise them without fear that it could cause them any backlash or need to carry out something they don’t want to. For example, they come up with an idea, and you say great can you research that some more. However, they may just be an ideas person and have no desire to research it and make it happen. Next time they have an idea, they will avoid sharing in case the same thing happens again.

What we need to do is take idea generation and idea development in separate sections. Let’s focus for now on getting staff to come up with ideas and share them.

Many people use team meetings as an opportunity to ask others if they have a good idea. 

"Does anyone have any ideas we should consider"

Now you say it like that and everyone is looking I’m not so sure my idea is a good idea, what if I mention it and everyone laughs, what if someone thinks I’ve stolen their idea, what if you have already tried that idea in the past and I don’t know that. Worse still what if you say, great idea, go make it happen. I have no idea how to make it happen. I'll just keep my idea to myself, it's probably not a good idea anyway.

Worse still, many managers choose to use team meetings to do this and tag it on at the end. By this point in the meeting people are beginning to wind down, have thoughts about leaving and getting onto the next thing, and so are unlikely to raise a concern or flag up a new idea.

Start having a section on the agenda just to play with ideas, or better still just have sessions (not meetings) where we play around with ideas, developing ideas and consider new ideas. Not questioning people over their ideas, just playing with ideas, to see if they could work.

One concept you could try is to have sessions where you carry out discussions about certain elements of the business. For example you concentrate on the customer service activities. As a team you discuss - are we happy about the way we currently do this, is this the best, most effective and most efficient option for our business, and profits? As a team, you consider various ideas without actually committing to anything formally or discrediting any ideas out of hand. All ideas have equal value and are worth considering as they may move onto another idea.

Taking it a step further you could have a discussion around are we happy around a specific element of your work, such as the way in which we currently handle questions from our customers.

By raising this way of working with your team and giving them time to discuss it, you enable them to play around with new ideas in a safe forum. They are not saying what is done now is right or wrong, just considering different ways.

Because we are just throwing out ideas and concepts as a team there is no threat or concern your ideas will be criticised. We are agreeing that we might not make the changes, but let us consider all ideas without a hidden agenda.

We are just finding a way to have where people have an opportunity to offer up ideas without feeling the pressure to ensure those ideas are fully considered and able to be implemented.

In fact the more we play about with ideas the more chance we have of finding the right solution. Or in fact sometimes after considering other ideas, we may come back to our current way of working or doing something and decide it is the right way.

In doing this we are:

  • able to help the whole team feel involved in developing an idea
  • provide staff with a way of communicating their idea without fear of repercussions
  • give people the room to share ideas without a need to offer a solution
  • potentially spot opportunities that would never have been considered in a more formal situation

Ideas such as these are developed further in Rebecca’s new book, Enterprise Within: Developing corporate enterprise and innovation through stretchy staff.

Rebecca Jones has combined 26 years of owning and running several of her own companies as well as developing in-house enterprises within other organisations and her academic research into the development of enterprising mind-sets. A qualified teacher with a masters in educational development, Rebecca now works as a consultant and motivational business speaker, encouraging growth through staff engagement and development of a more enterprising mindset within teams.

You can follow her on twitter @redhshoebizwoman or visit www.rebeccajones.biz