Blue Sky Thinking. While some employees are desperate to dream the possibilities, others rely on a well-trodden game plan to provide clarity and assurance.

So how as a leader do you create an environment that will foster new ideas and progressive thinking to ensure your business is still around five years from now?

Luckily for us we are all so different. Can you imagine if everyone in your workplace thought, acted and said what you did? Unique in our thinking, we are complex and individual beings with totally different needs, wants and desires in our daily lives. That said, leadership is the gift of understanding this very concept and assisting each individual to be the best version of themselves. The mecca then is to create a workplace where individuals thrive and share their thoughts, feelings and ideas freely.

It sounds so simple right? Yet oppositional behaviours in your workplace are also at play. You may not recognise them immediately but you certainly feel them when you pitch an idea left of field. “That won’t work” syndrome or “We’ve already tried that before” are two remarks you can expect when oppositional is sitting in the room. So quick to discount your thoughts, ideas and thinking without often hearing it through.

If done in small doses and well thought through oppositional qualities can become one of the most powerful behaviours, rather a gift. Articulation, avoiding unnecessary risk and attention to detail are all qualities when executed well and from the right place, desiring best outcome for the business and individuals concerned. Done badly however and the consequences can be devastating leaving an individual reminded constantly to never offer ideas again in a public forum. Confidence shattered and self-esteem left in tatters.

Often the best ideas for a business are those born from our front of house employees engaging daily with our valued customers. Being more in-touch with the customers needs allows a solution-based approach that is practical and deliverable.

Below a list of five ways to ensure your business remains progressive and every voice feels heard;

1. Creating safe spaces to share ideas

As mentioned above the leadership within a business need to make it blatantly obvious that new ideas are encouraged and welcomed. This means asking more questions that providing answers, never shooting down an idea and helping staff understand the company Vision so all ideas can relate to the overall goal.

2. Understanding new ideas are often ugly

Seldom are the best ideas born pretty. It may be several conversations or brainstorming sessions before an initial idea grows wings. By remaining open to ideas and suggestions and pondering on the possibility, often the initial thought of “It won’t work” dissipates allowing the possibilities to be seen.

3. Provide various forums for staff to share ideas

The more your organisation discusses new ideas the more ideas will be born. Many of the most progressive organisations have dedicated teams focused on new ideas (Research and Development) and budgets allocated to trying new ideas before they become products or services within the business. If your business plays in the SME space being able to implement new ideas quickly and with agility becomes a huge competitive advantage.

4. Seek ideas as a leader rather than expecting them

Keep your office door open, literally, and spend time with your front line employees. Ask for their ideas, feedback and discuss what is important to your customers. This not only creates customer-focused solutions but allows employees to feel a sense of belonging in the organisation.

5. It might not be a no, just not now

Rather than saying no to a new idea be happy to place it into a parking lot to visit at a later date. This concept will allow the employee to keep face and know their idea was heard and may become a reality at a later date. It is also critical if the answer is no to explain the reasoning and thank them for their valued input and contribution.

Following and encouraging the above behaviours in your business will take time and energy. This may mean hard conversations around oppositional behaviour, encouragement and inclusion of those who don’t yet feel heard and certainly a peak in the mirror to ensure your leadership style is fostering what you desire from your team.

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