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How Not To Scare Your Team With Your New Ideas
New ideas are the lifeblood of an entrepreneurial company. They’re what drive your business growth, keep you competitive in the marketplace, and prove your value to prospects and clients alike.
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, they also make getting out of bed each morning worthwhile (and have caused more than one sleepless night). To people like us, who thrive on innovation and change, it’s new ideas that make life exciting.
But how does your team feel?
“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” Stephen R. Covey
Chances are, you haven’t assembled a team of people just like you. You’ve hired people with a range of unique skills, perspectives, and striving instincts, all of which are needed to take your ideas from concept to reality. In my experience, it’s the most successful entrepreneurs who recognize that if they have a team to research, budget, plan, and schedule, they’re freed up to innovate.
It’s a great system, but it can also be a challenging one, because there’s an inherent tension between the change you thrive on and the stability they need—and it’s up to you to strike the balance. If you’ve ever had the experience of sharing an idea you’re really excited about with your team only to be met with frowning faces and crossed arms, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
The problem here isn’t that you have too many ideas, or that your team is unreceptive to them. It’s that they’re afraid. They’re afraid too many things will change at once and all the systems they have in place—the systems that keep your company running smoothly and their workflow consistent—will become obsolete.
New ideas might be like oxygen to you, but many of your team members operate differently. Part of effective team leadership, then, becomes learning how to position your ideas in a way they can understand and accept. It’s not, “What’s going to change?” but rather, “What’s going to stay the same?”
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” James Humes
By framing your ideas as small enhancements rather than big overhauls, you can avoid a lot of the resistance and panic that change often brings—and the resentment such a reaction might breed in you.
Start by explaining to your team that you’ve found a way to improve on what’s already being done, taking extra care to reassure them of what things will stay the same. You might even open with that.
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From there, be as specific as possible. Give details—the more, the better. Your team appreciates these things. You might be the dreamer, but they’re the strategizers, and they’ll feel a lot more confident if they know what the future holds.
I promise, your team wants to support you and they want to be on your side, and they hate feeling unsure about your ideas just as much as you hate getting stonewalled when you share them. Learning to communicate changes tactfully is an important (yet often neglected) aspect of effective team leadership, and it will save everyone, yourself included, a lot of unnecessary stress.
“Anxiety is caused by a lack of control, organization, preparation, and action.” David Kekich
You can also alleviate your team’s anxiety by writing your ideas down ahead of time. At Strategic Coach, we use a proprietary tool called The Impact Filter for just this purpose. It’s a potent productivity strategy for organizing your thinking, getting any project launched, and planning quality teamwork. It’s also a great way to prove you’re serious about an idea, both to yourself and to your team. And it’s done by answering the following questions:
- What’s the idea or project?
- Why is it important?
- What’s the ideal outcome?
- What’s the worst thing that could happen if we don’t take action?
- What’s the best thing that could happen if we do?
- What needs to be true in order for this to be considered a success?
Going through this process not only helps you clarify your thinking and create a plan of attack, it immediately shows you whether an idea is actually worth pursuing. After all, if you can’t convince yourself that it’s worth your time and effort, you’ll never convince anyone else. Plus, when your team sees you’ve thought out your idea to this extent, they will buy in, especially if you give them time to think about it beforehand. (Please don’t force them to make a decision on the spot!)
Most of the time, we have no idea how much mental energy our team members spend trying to figure out what they’re supposed to take action on from what we say, but with an Impact Filter, they know exactly what’s most important to you. They know when you’re serious about an idea versus when you’re just brainstorming.
The Impact Filter also gives them a plan for taking action. With a clear road map and success criteria in hand, your team doesn’t have to waste time worrying about making you happy. They’re instead free to make your vision real using their own knowledge and skills. And that’s really what effective team leadership is all about.
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
By positioning changes in terms of improvements or enhancements, and by writing out your ideas ahead of time, you can keep your team out of panic mode and into creative thinking mode, which is much more fun, much more productive, and much more useful.
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