Provide Lots of Encouragement

Look at the word encouragement. The root, of course, is courage. It takes guts to come up with new ideas. And even more guts to say them aloud. "What if I'm wrong?" "What if no one likes it?" "What if it fails?" These are strong emotional reactions, to be sure.

To induce your people to explore the great unknown, with few assurances of which ideas will work, requires a great deal of encouragement on the part of management. And what's the opposite of encouragement? Discouragement, right? The quick-on-the-trigger manager who instantly judges an employee's idea to be less than wonderful once too often (which might be only once if done too harshly) may provide all the discouragement that individual needs to remain a crafter or rational the rest of his or her professional life, robbing the organization of a potentially powerful resource.

Consciously provide encouragement, and consciously refrain from discouragement. And insist that your top managers do so as well. You'll be fostering an environment in which people will volunteer ideas to make your products and services, and all aspects of your company, better and better and better.

One simple tactic I have used as a manager when trying to get people to stretch creatively is to say, "I know you can do better than this." If I instead said, "This isn't good," or even, "This isn't there yet," I may sound more discouraging than is necessary.

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