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Turn know-it-alls into go-to stars

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

"Rob, I wanted to ask you about this report," Maurice said to his newest hire. "I'm glad to hear about all you did to address the customer's concerns. But I also need to know what those concerns are. That's what this space here"—he points—"is for."

Rob smiled and nodded, but then pro­claimed, loud enough for the whole office to hear, "That's not the way we did it at Gordocorp. And they're pretty efficient in their customer service."

Before Maurice could respond, Rob's fellow team member Lisa chimed in. "Actually, it's not the way we did it either. When I worked at the Pleasantville loca­tion, they didn't use that report."

Both Rob and Lisa are good employees, and Maurice knew that when he hired experienced people, he gained access to new ideas. He didn't want to discourage them from sharing those ideas—just to understand when and how they should do so. Here's what Maurice told them:

Emphasize cooperation. "That's interesting to know," Maurice respond­ed. "It's good to remember that these systems don't need to be set in stone. But for now, the most important thing is that our reporting prac­tices be consistent among the team members. So I need for both of you to follow this procedure."

Follow up with praise. "Having said that, don't get me wrong—I'm always interested in hearing ideas for change," Maurice continued. "And I know both of you bring a lot of experience and know-how to this team. After you've mastered this system, I'm sure you'll be more able to suggest better ways of doing things."

Allow for questions. "Do you want me to explain the purpose behind our having different proce­dures here?" Maurice asked. Rob and Lisa nodded, so the manager explained how the marketing team used the input gathered from track­ing customer concerns to fine-tune the company's offerings. "People here, at least, do read these reports. Lisa, did Pleasantville use a differ­ent system for collecting this input? Rob, how did they address this at Gordocorp?" The two employees acknowledged that they didn't know.

Give suggestions on sugges­tions. "Now, if once the two of you have gotten this system down, you still think it could work better, go ahead and let me know—directly," Maurice said. "We can then take it up with the entire team, since we'll all have to be following this new procedure, and I'd like everyone's feedback and buy-in before we pitch any new ideas to the folks upstairs. And I do mean 'we'—of course, you'll get credit for any ideas you have."

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