The way that leaders engage with employees can have a very real impact on the way they feel and the likelihood that they will repeat a behaviour. It can sometimes be hard to know how to respond to a well-meaning but misguided employee without shattering their dreams and ensuring that they never suggest anything new ever again. Here are some great questions for promoting innovation and engagement.
- What is the thinking behind this idea? Encourage the employee to share with you why they think this is a great idea and what led up to this suggestion. Maybe there is value in the idea that is not obvious when they first describe it.
- How could we engage more people with this? Engaging more people with an idea can help develop and enhance it. There may be a way of developing the idea into something more workable or incorporating it into a larger piece of work being done elsewhere.
- What are the potential risks involved with this? Encourage the employee to think through all of the implications; get them to quantify the risks and suggest mitigating options. In thinking through the risks the employee may realise that the idea is not viable, or they may convince you it is.
- How can we test this? There is often an opportunity to test an idea on a small scale before investing a lot of time or money in it. Testing new ideas in a safe learning environment is a great way of supporting and encouraging innovation, and building knowledge. A fantastic new idea may even evolve out of the process.
- Who else in the organisation might have some thoughts on this idea? Stakeholder management is a key skill within an organisation and being aware of the implications of an idea on a wider group of people is an important consideration. Not only will this help the employee understand the nuts and bolts of the idea from new perspectives, they will also grow their network and promote cross-organisational communication.
- How does this fit with the organisational strategy? It might be a great idea but why is it relevant here? How will it help the organisation achieve its strategy? These are key questions within an organisation; there are always things that can be done but unless they will move the organisation towards its strategic goals they may not be relevant.
- What problem does this solve? In making a suggestion the employee may be highlighting a problem that you are not currently aware of. Once you know that a problem exists you can support the employee to find an appropriate solution.
- How can we develop this idea further? Have you identified the optimum solution? Has every last drop of value been extracted from the idea? Thinking about how developing an idea can engage the employee in creatively enhancing the proposal.
- What are the next steps? Encouraging the employee to take ownership and moving the idea forward demonstrates that you trust them and value innovation. The next steps might well be providing a business case, doing more research or making a plan, all of which will give you confidence to support them