Let’s face it, despite how great a leader the boss is, not all of his/her ideas are good ones. How do you have that conversation? One option is to say, “That’s funny boss! How about you keep creating agendas and leave creating ideas to us?” Or (at your next place of employment) you can try a different approach; one that transfers an idea from the person to the process…the innovation process.
It’s important to have a formalized, articulated innovation process because it provides a framework within which we can discuss the merits of ideas based on the need the idea meets, the pain it solves or the opportunity it seizes.
When we move an idea away from the person and into the process, we can think critically about the quality of the idea without being critical of the person.
Let The Process Help
When the boss shares an idea, he/she doesn’t want to hear, “That may be a good idea, but what problem does it address? What audience is struggling with this problem? What’s the root cause of this problem?” These are all good, valid questions, but most bosses want to see their idea take action right away, not stalled in what can seem like a long, slow process. Try the Q&A approach (Questions & Action):
- Use action-oriented words in statements
- Use investigative language through questions and put yourself in the Understand mindset.
For example, you might say, “That sounds interesting. I think I know a way to get buy-in. (Action) But first, can you give me more background on what sparked this idea in the first place? (Understand)”
It’s two sides of the same coin.
On the one side: Do you really know a way to get buy-in? YES. The Understand Stage of the innovation process can determine whether a problem exists and finds the root cause behind it. Creating awareness of these two components can legitimize to others the boss’s sense that something needs to be done, thus garnering initial buy-in. Or if you discover the idea doesn’t really solve a problem, or it solves the wrong problem, you’ll save the boss the embarrassment of having to reel it back in later.
On the other side: Asking questions about how he/she came up with the idea gives you the opportunity to suggest things like including others who can either confirm the hunch, show evidence that may shed light on a different course of action, or…
…make it obvious that the idea not a good one.
The Q&A approach gives the boss the opportunity to separate him/herself from owning the idea (pro tip: that’s good leadership tactic), and allows the idea to be judged on its ability to withstand the necessary scrutiny of the Understand Stage.
IN THE END, when the boss’s idea isn’t a good one, embrace it, then Q&A it. Through the conversations it creates, you’ll make the boss smarter, faster, and you’ll be in a pretty good spot yourself.