What Secrets Your Employees Hold

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Scenario: "Dude, we're running a top-notch organization because our employees aren't complaining/suggesting/innovating. We're 100% optimized. Yay!" What if Employee Debbie knew how to:

  • Improve customer service.
  • Boost employee morale.
  • Increase team productivity.
  • Ramp up sales.

Would she tell you?

  • a) Yes! Why wouldn't she?
  • b) No! She won't.

Answer (b)? Ding! Ding! Mutha ding! Ding! You're right. Your employees fear retribution if they break the corporate equilibrium by:

  • Speaking up.
  • Giving feedback.
  • Trying to innovate.
  • Taking the initiative.

"Won't the Boss fire me?!" they wonder. And instead of improving the company, Employee Debbie reverts back to the ol' COG that she is. Her superstar potential to rock your company = gone. If you're looking to optimize your entire company, encourage those badasses to speak up.

Why Your Employees Are Scuurrred

Harvard's Amy Edmonson and Penn State's James Detert interviewed nearly 200 employees about their approaching their bosses in the workplace. The result:

What they were most reticent to talk about were not problems but rather creative ideas for improving products, processes, or performance. Why? In a phrase, self-preservation. We found the innate protective instinct so powerful that it also inhibited speech that clearly would have been intended to help the organization. People often instinctively played it safe by keeping quiet. Their frequent conclusion seemed to be, "When in doubt, keep your mouth shut."

90859820958309899528098530922 innovative ideas to improve companies all over the world. Trapped. Too bad.

Why Encourage Employee Input

A soldier on the front-line knows how to win a battle much more than someone situated a million miles away. Likewise, your front-line employees know how to:

  • Build a better widget than you.
  • Increase customer happiness more than you.
  • Boost team productivity more than you.
  • Yadda, yadda, yadda.

You might think you're a badass, but your employees are expertos excellente at their domains. Embrace their knowledge, and -- collectively -- they'll optimize your business at every level of your soon-to-be-sexy-fabulous organization.

How to Encourage Your People to Speak Up

Systemize the process (i.e. make it an unofficial policy), so you'll receive a stream of brutal feedback constantly/repeatedly/forever-and-a-day. Some examples include:

  • "Every week, list 5 sucky things about our company."
  • "After every client project, list 3 ways we can improve."
  • "At the beginning of each month, tell us how to boost company morale."
  • "After every shipped widget, describe how we can build a better one."

Once you systemize the process, you'll confront how much sucky-suck-suck your company really is -- and discover immediately what you can do to improve the sucker. The side benefit: Your employees will take "ownership" of the company's direction, increasing their productivity as a result.

The takeaway from all of this:

  1. Your employees know much more about how to improve something that you don't.
  2. They're not telling you because they fear retribution.
  3. So, actively embrace and encourage their input.

Start asking each your each and everyone of your badasses:

"You're the expert. How would you improve the business?"

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Posted on April 26

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