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On the road not taken, you may be a detour sign

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in The Savvy Office Manager

Question: What stifles your employees’ ingenuity?

Answer: Probably you.

Look around. You got a decent staff. They’re getting their stuff done to your liking. In fact, you've got a few workers with enough entrepreneurial juice to keep the organization competitive.

But “a few” is not enough. And the truth is, there are likely more employees in your workplace who can add to the imaginative edge. Sadly, they’re being blocked and demoralized by a culture that snuffs out creativity and innovation. And it’s a culture you have control over.

Here’s what you might be doing wrong:

1. Your mantra is “We tried that already.” This is a variation of “Let’s not reinvent the wheel.” One of these days, someone is going to look at that wheel and see that you can roll from point A to B without it. Put your “wheel” up for reexamination.

2. You punish mistakes that were born out of good faith. So one of your workers went out on limb with a “dumb” idea that cost your company some time and a few bucks. Go ahead and punish him. In fact, fire him. Anyone else want to try something stupid? 

3. You like to see your ideas bloom from your staff. Remember, when you shoot down alternative solutions, your staff begins to assemble a picture of how you would approach a project or solve a problem. After all, employees have a natural tendency to please you (because you sign their paychecks). So what pleases you more than to see a worker think like you do? Congratulations. You’ve cloned yourself.

4. Mediocrity is rewarded. Workers doing the work they are paid to do deserve an award. Hey, it helps morale. Employees feeling good about themselves is a wonderful thing. But if you want to beat the competition, you’re going to have to push them to make them feel good about their accomplishments. Challenge them. 

5. You cultivate a risk-averse environment. Somehow your employees fear taking an idea to the brink of failure, because, as you say, “failure is not an option.” Failure is an option. Quitting isn’t.

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