“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.” Charles Brower or Ovid
How do you receive new ideas? Leaders know that ideas are crucial for innovation and improvement, but they don’t just magically appear. They live right now in the minds of your employees. Do you wonder why you don’t hear more of them? Maybe you are doing something that kills their ideas before they can be explored, or even verbalized.
I often see the following types of “personalities” that are particularly skilled at killing ideas:
The Problem Solver loves to fix things. His attention immediately goes to what won’t work, and he leader believes that he is helping by pointing this out upfront. However, if the first thing out of your mouth is “The problem with that is…….”, or “We tried that 25 years ago and it didn’t work because…”, your employees will probably hear that as criticism and not pursue the conversation.
The Critical Cynic distrusts everything new and is pessimistic about it. This leader believes that when someone suggests a new idea it’s because it is in the person’s best interest, not the company’s. The Cynic might say:
The cynic may also express his displeasure by:
The Director is impatient and uncomfortable with anyone challenging him. He loves to tell people what to do, even if it doesn’t always make sense. He may say:
The Avoider is afraid of risk. The thought of risk causes anxiety and worry, limiting his brain’s ability to see any positive aspects of a new idea. He is unwilling to change without a burning platform. The Avoider might say:
The Worker defines “working” as generating hard, measurable results right now. Time spent on any other activity, like building soft skills or thinking creatively, is a cost to be avoided. These are phrases you might hear from him:
The Naysayer has a pessimistic view of life and loves making excuses for things he “can’t” do. Complaining is his favorite form of communicating. The Naysayer loves these statements:
The impact of all of these personalities on their employees is the same. Employees see that it’s too hard to fight through the negativity and to get the attention that they feel their ideas deserve. Since their new ideas new will not be valued or considered anyway, why should they make the effort to share them?
If you recognize any of these “Idea Killer” traits in yourself, try some of the following:
Valuable ideas live in the minds of everyone in an organization. Encourage your employees to share them with you!