If you tell team members that you welcome their great ideas—and then you implement what you planned to do all along—you crush morale. But if you heed group input and use it as a springboard to build constructive action plans, you can make everyone feel like winners.
Master the art of what Ray Crew calls “idea grafting.” As senior vice president of Applied Research Corp. in Metuchen, N.J., Crew teaches managers to extract the most value from team brainstorming.
“As the manager, you only need to connect 10 percent of an employee’s idea to what you want to implement,” Crew says. “You can introduce 90 percent of the idea. But the employee will be very glad that their 10 percent is going forward and getting incorporated into what you’re doing.”
When a team member shares an idea or insight, build on it. Don’t judge it outright or vaguely describe it as “a promising area for exploration” and then forget about it.
Respond by using the idea as a starting point for further discussion. Say to the group, “That’s an interesting and important idea. What else do we need to consider as we move forward?”
“You want to add to the idea, not exclude it, ignore it or declare your own idea in its place,” Crew says.
When the group finalizes its recommendations, cite key contributions from team members. Recognize their input by name. Acknowledging each of their roles in carrying an idea forward and sharpening its focus shows that you spread around credit rather than claim it yourself.
In team discussions, designate the ultimate decision-maker from the outset. Identifying the person responsible for making the final decision lets everyone know who will be accountable for follow-through. Bob Wall, a consultant in Bridgeport, Conn., says recognizing “who has the ‘D’ ” (D = decision-making authority) facilitates better. Organizations tend to sputter when people stand around waiting for someone to step up and take responsibility for a decision.