Theresa B. from Pittsburgh, PA writes:
“My mind is a jumble of ideas, and when I have a great one I want my exec team to get to work on it ASAP. ( I probably have ADHD or something like that.) They roll their eyes, sit back and make me feel like a child. There have been times when my ideas cost us,I’ll credit them with that. But other times the company lost out because my team wouldn’t take me seriously. Here’s the kicker: when they come to me with an idea, it’s almost a done deal. I’m just supposed to sign off every time! So frustrating. What can I do to get them to listen to my ideas with an open mind?”
It is hard to curb your enthusiasm when you can see a promising idea so clearly in your mind. You’re struck by the potential and the long term gains. However great the idea, it’s absolutely essential that you and your partners stand back 30,000 feet and examine the proposition carefully. Your brain, Theresa, the visionary’s brain, is a mystery to those with a more linear way of thinking. As Dr. Ned Hallowell says, “You’ve got a race car brain with bicycle brakes.” (It’s good they are not like you, can you imagine the chaos with an exec team made up of nothing but visionaries?)
To get heard, you need to step into their world and ask yourself a series of questions before you present your idea. I suggest you have 5 or so basic questions answered before you present a new idea to your exec team. Get these 5 questions from your partners. What kind of facts do they need to consider your idea? They may be something like: What resources do we already have to make this happen? What resources do we need? What will it cost? Does this idea support our brand or confuse our customers? Is anyone else doing this? Chances are, your partners address these kind of questions before they ask you to sign off on their projects. That’s the difference.
You may save yourself a lot of embarrassment and frustration if you take a step back and consider these questions first. Keep them handy so when a idea strikes you’ll ensure a captive audience.
Having trouble being heard, respected or appreciated for your contribution? Perhaps it’s your presentation that needs work. Let me help. Contact me at [email protected]
Transparency is one of the best ways to build trust with your team. Here’s how:
Explain the company’s strategic initiatives, short/long term goals, deadlines and the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Do not assume your team understands your reasoning behind these objectives or that they understand how their roles specifically support these initiatives.
Share relevant financials along with explanations. Just because the company is bringing in money, doesn’t mean it’s time for pay increases! The more your employees know about the company’s financial goals, plans, priorities, challenges and opportunities the more buy-in you’ll get from them.
In your leadership meetings encourage a ten minute How I Did It segment. An employee is invited to share a triumph – how their killer solution to a vexing problem saved the company time, money and/or valuable customers. Triumphant employees earn modest rewards like a gift card or an afternoon off.
If an employee intends to depart or is laid off, make their exit a friendly one. It’s never a good idea to burn bridges or leave on sour terms. Bad news travels faster than good news. Explain honestly to the group the general reason for the person’s departure w/o revealing personal details. If the departure was caused by some undercurrent issue, take action to address the issue immediately.
Encourage questions, concerns, fears, and new ideas at Monday morning coffee meetings and Friday team lunches. Give updates on projects. Come up with jolting questions that spark conversation and new ideas like: If you were the competition, how would you put us out of business? Encourage the participation of the less chatty employees by welcoming their ideas in writing. Encourage them to contribute relevant articles, new books, podcasts etc.
Everyone makes mistakes, and some errors are more costly than others. Encourage early reporting of errors. Help your employee to move as soon as possible from guilt and shame mode to solution mode. As a leader, admit the mistakes you make and what you’ll do to correct them.
Founders and other members of the leadership team can offer open door office hours for more private conversations.
Make clear to your customers what your team is up to and what directions you are moving to improve the customer experience. Create opportunities and venues for gathering customer feedback. Continually ask them how you or your product or service would make them happier customers. Show eagerness to hear about what they don’t like.
Finally, when staff come to you with an idea, a complaint, a problem or a solution, let them know they have been heard! It is a very common employee complaint. (See my October Mindful Communication Minute Newsletter on this topic coming out soon)
Founders short on time and money tend to short communication with staff. Hasty hires, ignoring minor office tiffs, hazy objectives and the like can cost more time and money in the end. These problems aren’t too great for your health either. Minutes of wholehearted, attentive listening can save a company millions. Research shows that founders who foster a mindful listening environment meet their deadlines and quotas more often, are more successful and have happier and sustainable teams. It’s never too late to infuse more mindful listening into your startup.
Hands down, the best ways to improve communication is to have quarterly face-to-face, electronic-free, 20 minute meetings with each employee. The goal, simply by listening, makes your employees feel valued and respected for their ideas and opinions. I have found that giving an employee just five minutes of uninterrupted, earnest listening can be transformative.
Discovering an employee’s learning and communication style can be very helpful in forming teams and meeting expectations. Are they high energy and assertive, meek and agreeable, task driven or deadline driven? Are they static or growth oriented? What are their values, and why do or don’t they show up to work every day? Expensive surveys are a time hog, touted as a time saving way to get a pulse on the opinions of the group, barely skim the surface of what employees need and want to make your company great.If you offer these periodic connection conversations, come performance review time, your employees will show greater willingness to accept feedback and make needed changes.
Founders alert: Short on time and money? Can’t afford expensive consultants and training? Get a 60 minute personalized coaching session with me. Learn how a few simple changes to your listening style can upgrade your team’s efficiency and productivity. Contact me at [email protected]
Are you an employee of a start-up itching to play more of a leadership role in your company as an intrapreneur? If you are a founder, you can bet that there are a some employees deep in the trenches with an entrepreneurial mindset; they want to develop, manage and lead smaller, revenue-producing projects within the company. Do you make it easy for them to share their ideas? I received this query from a frustrated employee that said it all:
How can I share my ideas for making my company better? I work in the customer service end of things, and I have ideas for speeding up orders and retaining customers. When I have suggested ideas to my bosses in the past, they seemed to agree with me, but nothing ever came of it. How can I get heard?
A Frustrated Intrapreneur
Here are 5 steps that will make it easier for your idea to be heard by the right people:
1) Check with your boss or HR to see if your company has a process or a proposal format for getting ideas to the decision maker. Just throwing out half-baked ideas is a good way for others not to take you seriously, or for your ideas to go nowhere.
2) Does your idea fit with the company’s mission and values? Is there a need for your idea? Have you any data or documented customer feedback regarding the problem you want to solve?
3) Can you explain your idea in a couple different ways (Power Point, graphics, a flow chart, etc) that are concise, simple and easily understood? Perhaps you haven’t been heard before because you speak in generalities, digress or talk beyond the average boss’s attention span of 15 seconds (or less)? If so, see my earlier blog for “Getting to the Point.”
4) What are the costs associated with the development and execution of your idea? How would your idea positively affect the bottom line? Or, if your idea had been implemented earlier, how would it have saved time and money, retained customers, decreased stress, etc?
5) How would your idea affect others in the company? Can you get the buy-in from those who would implement it?
If you address all these points and present them with a good dose of passion, don’t be surprised if you get an invitation to the boardroom!
If you are an intrapreneur wanting more tips for “getting heard,”
contact me at [email protected]