What happens when someone comes to work with a great idea? All too often: nothing at all.
Unless an employee feels confident expressing a viewpoint, it may as well not exist. As a manager, you play a critical role in encouraging candor and debate to cultivate diversity of thought.
“Developing Dialogue” is a key behavior exhibited by talent multipliers, people who succeed by inspiring, championing, and empowering others to succeed.
The first step to finding out what your employees are thinking is simple. Ask them. “You can’t always expect that people will give you feedback,” says Vinny Trani, an Internal Audit manager. “You need to ask them questions, especially related to initiatives and topics that interest them to start dialogue.” Be especially sure to ask open-ended queries not only to hear what your people are saying, but gain insight into how they are thinking.
Of course asking someone for input is a great start, but not everyone will automatically be forthcoming, particularly if the individual isn’t used to being asked for an opinion. “Keep asking,” Trani says. “It can take time to build the necessary trust to get people to open up. Don’t give up.”
Meredith Ciana agrees. To build greater candor, Ciana, vice president of total retirement solutions product management, suggests that you first build rapport with an associate via one-to-one conversations. “Start out small,” Ciana says. “It can be intimidating for people to speak in front of multiple people, but by gradually exposing someone to increasingly larger groups, you can help that person build confidence slowly.” At the same time, don’t put people on the spot. Ask them in advance if they are comfortable speaking up in front of others. “Before you give them a voice, give them a heads-up,” says Trani.
How you respond to someone’s opinion is equally as important as asking for it. “If you want people to take intelligent risks, one of our leadership competencies, you need to create a safe environment for people to do so,” Ciana explains.
Always be sure to thank people for their contributions. Never criticize someone for raising a hand. Not all ideas will be good, but it’s always good when people offer them.
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