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Leaders, Stop Overpowering Your Team’s Ideas

Sometimes bosses may get distracted by the goals. They get overeager trying to come up with a winning idea that will make them look like a hero. But a lot of bosses work to please other bosses. Meanwhile, their team is looking at the boss like “hush and sit down—we have ideas too”! Leaders foster an environment where a team can exchange ideas free of fear or judgment (and being ignored or silenced). Leaders are not attached to the outcome of the ideas, and welcome the flow of participation, cooperation, and creativity.

But when is it okay for a leader to share their input on an idea without diminishing it? Do you improve upon the idea with your own thoughts, or should you coach around the idea during brainstorming? While balance may be key, looming deadlines and performance goals may pressure you to move things forward more quickly. Fight the urge! Focus on asking some open-ended questions to flesh out more possibilities. Also, don’t vicariously allow fellow team members to squelch ideas that don’t seem feasible. Remember, you’re fostering a safe environment free of fear or judgment. Rushing to impose your own opinions will disempower your team, increase their feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy, and will possibly set the stage for fear of retribution.

It is false that leaders must always have the answers. Once you empower your team to believe that they too have the answers—voila!—you have just shown them that they are as much the leader as you. So don’t shrink away from getting in the trenches as a thought leader, and create equality among your team. Put your ideas out there as long as they don’t discourage team contributions or suffocate creativity, and coach around the rest. You can even get really fancy and allow the team to coach you and each other around the ideas shared.

It is okay sometimes to ask others what they want to do rather than always telling them what you want them to do.

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