Good idea vs Better idea, what is your employee choosing?
Employee ( to self)
“I see a problem and it’s a good idea to report this and get it fixed”
“but hey, I have an even better idea, lets not report this, it’s not my responsibility nor I created it”
Your employees might be choosing this better idea over a good idea.
You would never notice it or maybe it would be too late before you start noticing those problems by yourself.
Why are they choosing this better idea?
The challenge might be in how does leadership reacts when the problems are reported.
Check the below list and see, if some of those are true, if yes, then this might be already happening with you.
- When problems are reported leadership tends to (over)react, disapprove it, get offended.
It’s like, you punish the messenger when you don’t like the message.
2. Since they reported the problem, you give them the responsibility to fix it. [ Remember, the problem might not have been created by themselves in the first place]
3. (if it’s the problem created by them earlier) You expect them to fix it in the current timeline with no valid rationale.
4. Employees don’t get support to fix it [ worst, nobody asks them if they need any help? ]
5. Employees don’t get rewarded or appreciated for fixing it. [ Leadership thinks that It was always expected from them to do it right in the first time itself]
6. All agree and acknowledge the problem, but nobody cares to fix them later [ Leadership has no (better) way to track the problems reported ]
What to do when you find nobody is reporting a real problem to you?
In this good and better idea, leadership can always choose the best idea, that is, “when problems are reported, listen, emphatically listen”.
This is minimum and probably harder than most leaders think.
If could do this, pat yourself, you are doing good work.
When the reported problem is bad, don’t be angry or don’t overreact.
You were already living with it, so it’s ok. The worst could have happened is, that problem is found and escalated by your customer.
And then you would not have been in much control.
So now, since you are aware of it, see, what is the best that you could do to fix it, or minimum, what can be done to mitigate the risk?
Don’t be part of the problem, seek solutions. Short term, long term solutions.
Rationale thinking is minimum expected from you, again, it is more difficult than one thinks, so if you could do it, pat yourself.
May be reported problem is not in your capacity to fix. You too need help.
Chose “good idea” to report this problem to the above leadership.
Taking responsibility is what expected from you. Again much harder than one thinks, but if you could do this, you are an asset to the organization.
This time be proud of yourself.
Maybe not all the reported problems are worth fixing or on your priority list.
It’s ok, explain to your employee, what’s the roadmap? What is the priority? what are current business needs?
Don’t get impatient, you need to keep this channel open.
With a few iterations, everyone will start reporting the right problems which require your attention.
You have hired smart and good people, so trust them with their skills and intentions and let them do their good work.
Sometimes they will fail, it’s ok. You are not sitting on the top to hear (only) good news. The process of improvement is iterative.
Understand this and help to make each iteration better than previously done.
Leaders can’t know everything by themselves, even if they have started a product/organization from scratch.
To succeed / to survive, you need people to report problems to you.
Remember, because you know how to solve the problems is one reason that you are chosen to be in this role.
So, build a culture where everyone can choose “good idea over the better idea” without fear and hesitations !!!
— Sharad Shinde
( Sharing some learning on completing two years in management role)