I used to be the permanent residence of the GIF – the Good Idea Fairy. He really enjoyed hanging out with me, because I’d take all the good ideas he’d whisper in my ear and head off toward the sunset, chasing the next windmill. My team members were the perennial victims of this constant stream of “flavor of the month” concepts, and our organization resembled Dorothy’s house when captured by the tornado in The Wizard of Oz.
Finally one day in the early 1990s my Executive Officer (the second in command of my unit) approached me after a particularly whirlwind week where the GIF and I were going at full speed. “Sir,” he began, “you’ve got to give us a little room to implement these ideas. Right now we’re just spinning from one to the next. Nothing sticks.”
This gutsy statement by my exec was a defining moment for me and my buddy the GIF. The more I thought about it, the more his statement rang true. I was just creating activity, not progress. And, if I was going to be the one with all of the ideas, we were just growing followers, not leaders. It was time to give the GIF his eviction notice.
How are you and your GIF getting along? Here’s a few questions to ask yourself to see how your relationship is going:
- Who speaks first at your meetings? If it’s always you, then you’re probably missing out on some better ideas than the ones you have.
- What kind of questions do you ask to gain information? They should be “idea questions” such as “If you could change one thing about the way we operate now, what would it be?”
- Do you model curiosity? If you’re truly curious, people will want to share their ideas with you. Work on the skills of effective active listening – keep eye contact, turn face to face, tune out the background noise, pause at least 2 seconds before responding.
- Do you recognize good ideas and reward them? People seek acceptance and recognition, and their loyalty grows exponentially when they feel valued. Seeking good ideas, implementing them, and rewarding the authors will generate more and more genuine, enthusiastic input. You’ll see bottom line results, too.
You can grow good leaders into great ones by sending the GIF their way, and supporting the ideas they generate. That doesn’t mean you give up the opportunity to put your thoughts on the table; just moderate when and how you offer them up.
Grow leaders, and enjoy the journey!