Whose Idea Is It Anyway? The Art Of Extracting Ideas And Feedback During Staff Meetings
I frequently hear the moan and wail, “I open my meetings up to staff ideas and then they just sit there and look at me!”. The common complaint is that when staff does get the opportunity to voice their ideas – managers/leaders are met with SILENCE. So what is the trouble here? Are staff so low on ideas? Are managers not asking correctly?
I think it’s a combination! So here are 3 thoughts around getting substantial ideas from staff:
1. Don’t spring it on them: Most leaders do this as a surprise during or at the end of a meeting. Many people are not great with thinking on their feet. Only a portion of the staff compliment likes to speak off the cuff. You need to give them time to think before the meeting, so ask staff to prepare an idea around a certain aspect that relates to their department/ job function etc. (This will also ensure that you don’t come to a meeting flying by the seat of your pants – but prepared!)
2. Enjoy the Exploration: Most leaders throw the ‘any ideas???’ question out as a courtesy, before they launch into their own ideas…seeing as everyone is SOOOO quiet. Set at least 10-15 minutes aside to explore and get people’s feedback. You can ask them to work in couples for 2 minutes and brainstorm in order to stimulate discussion. Then present the idea to the group and open it up for discussion and build on the idea presented. If it’s a far out idea, don’t dismiss it. Unpack it with the group and see if there are workable aspects. The worst that will happen is that staff will learn about the challenges they have to consider when bringing solutions and ideas.
3. Implement & Feedback: People are not going to continue to bring ideas if they feel it’s just a ‘waste of time because they never use our ideas anyway’. If an idea is not 100% practical or doable, challenge them to come up with the solutions of the aspects of their ideas that are not workable. Give them feedback on what parts of their ideas are being implemented in your next meeting. Alternatively, give them timelines as to when you are presenting the idea to your leadership. It’s important that your people see how their contribution is building your collective success.
Remember that meetings are vital communication opportunities with the collective (or they can just be meetings for meetings sake!). Make the time to create a maximised environment to harness your staff ideas and solutions.