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Ask Dan
Q.
I like to turn to my team for ideas, but they rarely respond. As their leader, how can I motivate them to contribute?

A.
People are often willing to share ideas when their leader has created an environment that facilitates open, honest participation and feedback. So why doesn't that happen more often? It's because some managers tend to want agreement with their ideas, not the development of new opinions or the improvement of old ones. The team quickly learns that the smart thing to do is agree with the boss and keep their viewpoints close to the vest.

Luckily, there are several quick and direct steps that can resolve this troublesome situation. First, present the problem you are hoping to address in a group meeting, but avoid noting any potential solutions. Second, call on everyone on your team to contribute directly, acknowledging their input as soon as they offer ideas or comments. Be open to sincerely weighing the merits of your staffers' recommendations, even those you may not like. Further, don't let any one person dominate the session, especially yourself.

Once they're done, summarize their recommendations and discuss any possible solutions you may have reached by that point. Finally, close the meeting by offering your appreciation for their participation. By engaging your people in a dialogue where you openly show your respect and trust, you will see that the more you ask them to share their input, the more willing they will be to provide it. E



Dan Lumpkin, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to askdan@exhibitormagazine.com.
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