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Cultivating Ideas

One of my staff came up to me… “Phil, I have an idea…”

Great!  Run with it!

Don’t you want to hear it, first?

No.  I trust you.  Just tell me when you’re ready to launch.

I could have taken a number of different approaches to this.

I could have…
Patiently listened to the idea, giving my input, tweaking it to my tastes, and telling the employee what to do.  But that would take ownership of the idea away from her.  It would now be our idea and everything would need my approval, input and effort.

If I have not done my job hiring the right people and training them fully about our Character Diamond and how everything must fit, then I might need this approach.

I could have said…  
Do you have it written down?  Get it all on paper first.  Write down everything including costs to the business, benefits expected, time frame to complete, how it fits into the Character Diamond of the store, etc. then bring me the finished idea.  Some of my staff would do that.  Some might lose interest.  Doesn’t sound nearly as fun as actually doing the idea.

I could have said… 
Not right now, I’m busy… (I have enough to do… you have another job to do… I didn’t hire you to have ideas… we’re tight on cash… we don’t need any new ideas right now… make up your own excuse here).  And I would never have to worry about her having an idea again.

But what I really said was… 
I am confident that I have trained you well enough for you to know what I want for the business.  I trust that you are capable of doing great things for the business.  I want to empower you to keep coming up with ideas for the business.  I want you to take ownership of your ideas, thus taking ownership of their results.  

If you want your staff to have ideas, first hire idea people.  Then let them run with their ideas.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  The hardest part is not putting your own stamp on the idea.  When I let my staff run with an idea, I save all my tweaking for the end and only as suggestions.  The second hardest part is that my wife comes up with some great ideas and she doesn’t work at the store so I have to relay her ideas to the staff by planting seeds so they might take ownership.  The third hardest part is the ideas I have on my own.  I have a lot of them and those are the ideas about which I am the most impatient. Fortunately the staff often takes ownership of those, too.  Especially when I allow them to make their own tweaks and alterations.

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