Leadership Steers the Course of Improvement and Innovation
When your employees identify opportunities for improvement and share them with you, it’s important to take them seriously and respond appropriately. Addressing their questions and ideas will go a long way toward establishing and supporting a culture of continuous improvement in your organization.
Here are 5 things you should do when your employees approach you with opportunities for improvement:
- Recognize the ideas as opportunities
Your employee has likely gone out of their comfort zone to approach you in the first place. It also means that they are thinking about their work, rather than just accepting the status quo. This is a great opportunity for you to learn more about the person, their thought process, and their work, as well as for them to learn more from you (and about you!). Great ideas often come from unexpected sources, so really listen to what they have to say.
- Treat the person with respect
Acknowledge the fact that they came to you - thank them! Ask them to sit down in your office or schedule a time for them to do so. Ask them to explain their question, observation, or idea. Ask questions, and really listen to the answers. Regardless of whether you think the idea is good or bad, suggest that they socialize it with others to get support. Assure the employee that if the idea is implemented, they will get full credit and recognition. Ask them to get back to you after they have socialized the idea to schedule a time for further review.
- Follow up
Take notes of the discussion and plan a follow up. During the followup, bring other supporters into the conversation by inviting them to your office. Thank all of them for taking the time to listen to the idea and ask for their input. If there is no support from others, thank the employee for coming forward and assure them that your door is always open for any suggestions for improvement.
- Suggest a test or dry run
If you’ve heard wide support for the idea, suggest a test case or dry run. Solicit ideas on how this might be done. It is always good to involve someone from finance to become part of the test, as they can then provide the accurate financial validation and measurement of the impact. There may be a need to involve other departments as well to help validate the test. Support the logistics of the test and ask the team for a report on the results.
- Recognize and reward
The test will either result in a positive or negative outcome. In either case, thank the team for their efforts. If it is a successful test and there has been a validation by financial or other professional contributors that this is a sound idea with a positive impact, make it part of standard operating practice. Publicly recognize the individual who came up with the idea, as well as the teams that validated it and helped drive it to completion. Public recognition and appreciation will stimulate others and ideas will flow.
Adopting these behaviors with your employees in a constant and consistent manner will establish a culture of improvement in the business. Employees will feel good about themselves, enjoy coming to work, and will spread positive commentary about the business environment in your company both internally and externally. Your business will be better for this and your recognition as true leader will be self-evident.