An important measurement of strong leadership is creating a highly functional performing team. There are many ways to motivate team members, but none more important than empowering each person to share their views and ideas. If people are encouraged to offer innovative suggestions without risking being shot down, do you think that they might contribute to an inspired team spirit with potentially outstanding results? According to Emotional Intelligence guru Daniel Goleman– “It turns out that employees who feel appreciated personally will take creative risks that result in innovative ideas and products. Organizations that want to survive in today’s climate have to nurture and capture all the good ideas they can” Here are a few hints in empowering others to find their voice:
- Create a safe work environment: Before any person on a team is willing to share their ideas, a leader must instill a culture of trust and acceptance. One of my clients was having a difficult time figuring out a solution to a manufacturing obstacle. The team leader was frustrated that no one was sharing possible ways to resolve the situation. He asked me, “Why can’t these experienced individuals solve this glitch?” I began working with the team on creative problem solving methods. But what became apparent was that the leader was the obstacle. Every time a suggestion was made, the leader would respond negatively, stating this possibility had already been considered. He was unwilling to hear the team member’s potential “twist” on the solution. New ways of solving the problem were being offered but the leader destroyed each new idea. Eventually, the team members stopped making suggestions. What the leader learned was he needed to create a working space where team members felt secure enough to speak up- to find their voice. To do this, I practiced with the team and the leader how to have successful “brainstorming” sessions where no judgments were made, just ideas offered.
- Reward ideas being offered: When team members share their opinions and unique ways of tackling a situation, take the time to reward them. We all need to feel valued and that our contributions are worthwhile. In studies that have been done over the years, the number one reason that employees stay at a job is because they feel that their manager values their work. Additionally, team members want to feel that their ideas are being included in the final output. Integrating as many of the suggestions of the team members will encourage continued participation. Leaders will begin to hear “voices” loudly and clearly!
- Be clear on expectations and direction: To elicit responses from a team, leaders must try to clarify the vision and be as specific as possible. When people know what is being expected, they are able to express their opinions more successfully. In one organization I worked with, a leader was upset that nobody was responding to an important email she had sent out. When we began talking about how emails were disseminated, it turned out that many unnecessary names were included on the email. Team members couldn’t differentiate what they should or should not be responding to. As a result, few people offered their input. When we finally realized what was happening, the leader sent the email to only those people that she needed to hear from. It worked like a charm and voices were awakened once again!
Every leader needs to encourage people to voice their ideas and opinions. Without input from team members, the best outcome might never get achieved. What other ways have you empowered individuals to speak up? Would love to have you share them with us!