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How do managers miss out on ideas that might turn them into leaders?

Here’s one scenario, as relayed by a midlevel federal employee:

“My manager is not a mean person. Outside of work, he’s really nice. But the way he manages has sucked the morale out of our office.

“People have ideas on how to improve things that would cost little or nothing, but they feel so discouraged that they don’t speak up. If you go to him with an idea, he argues against it on the spot. So people don’t even try.

“When there is a need, our boss won’t let us address it. If he makes a questionable decision, he won’t back down or explain.

“When we’re starting a project that needs the director’s approval, this manager will talk to the director before he talks to us. Then, when we point out problems, it’s too late.

“The worst thing is all the criticism. Our employees did an extraordinary amount of work on a new project. We worked nights and weekends; we helped each other; we really hustled—and we felt proud when it was done. All he could say was: ‘You didn’t do it fast enough.’ He couldn’t bring himself to say thanks. Even worse, he criticized us!”

With some changes in his own behavior, he could invigorate his staff.

He should:

  • Consider employees’ ideas. “I like this but need to think about it. I will let you know.”
  • Credit people. “Mary suggested going from weekly to monthly reports because there isn’t much to report lately. It’s a good idea, so let’s try it. Any problems, let me know.”
  •  Let others find solutions. “Sue wants to take leave for her sister’s wedding. I’ve asked her to talk to each of you to see how we could share the load.”
  •  Ask before taking a proposal upstairs. “Any drawbacks to this idea?”
  • Confine criticism to a specific task. And don’t harp on mistakes publicly. Save public pronouncements for …
  •  Accomplishments! Recognize them, praise them and do it unreservedly, often and out loud.

Note: Find more tips in our free report, Office Communication Toolkit: 10 Tips for Managers.

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