It’s probably more frustrating because you know it’s happening as it’s happening. There you sit, pouring your heart into an impassioned plea to do this or that. It’s a crazy idea, you say, but it just might work.
And there’s your manager, looking back at you with eyes that betray the fact that he’s not listening nearly as well as he’d like you to think he is. He’s nodding and smiling, sure; but you can tell this is only token acknowledgement of what you’re saying. There’s a certain look that folks get when they’re actually engaged in a conversation, and this guy across the desk from you–he doesn’t have it.
But wait, you tell yourself, he specifically asked us for ideas. He said he wanted us to be innovative.
So you’re puzzled.
Frustration begins to creep in and you’re not even out of the conversation yet. He hasn’t said no. In fact, if you weren’t paying close attention, you’d think he was not only agreeing with everything you’re saying, but also enjoying everything you’re saying. He’s nodding and smiling as you talk, after all.
The conversation ends with your manager rattling off the obligatory Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me. You know how I like employees to innovate. But you already know nothing’s going to happen. You know he just went through the motions.
How do you know? Well, there’s probably a track record there. You can’t even count the number of times your manager and the organization have asked for new ideas, or encouraged employees to innovate, or something along those lines. And equally innumerable are the times that employees have presented ideas to what would appear to be accepting and approving management, only to have those ideas wither and die on the vine from lack of care and attention from enough parties.
Most of us know how this feels. We’ve had it happen at least a time or twelve in our careers. So then my question is this: Why on earth do we do this same thing to our own teams more often than we’d like to admit? Sometimes, without even realizing it, we slip into the very habits that we swore we’d never embrace because we remember how frustrating they can be to a team.
As leaders, it’s on us to be sure that we’re encouraging our teams to bring new ideas to the table, helping them work and think through the viability of those ideas, and then taking those ideas–together, as a team–and running with them. Innovation isn’t just coming up with a shiny, new idea; it’s making that idea a reality.