Harnessing the Power of Your Team’s Input
In my article, “Resolutions for Leading Your Team Better in 2023,” I shared 4 resolutions that you could work on to help you excel as a leader this year. In this post, we’ll explore the second resolution in more detail: foster input from everyone.
There is a superpower that comes alive when a team combines the thoughts and talents of all its members to tackle challenges together. The key to unlocking this superpower is making sure that everyone on your team has a voice and the opportunity and comfort to share their thoughts. By fostering a culture of inclusivity and valuing every team member’s input, you not only increase the likelihood of finding the best solutions but also cultivate an environment where individuals feel valued and fulfilled.
While this may seem straightforward, fostering company-wide input requires intentional leadership. Let’s start by dispelling common false assumptions that often prevent leadership from harnessing the full power of their team’s input. Then, we’ll explore practical ideas to empower your team and tap into their collective wisdom.
Common False Assumptions to Soliciting Team Input
1. “I don’t have time to get input from everyone.”
I won’t deny that asking more people for their opinion means that it will take longer. Still, I think it is worth the time it takes in most cases. There are certainly decisions that are big enough to impact every single member of the team, so the benefits of getting input from your team far outweigh the time burden it creates.
You should also make sure your communication systems are set up to get your team’s input in the most efficient way. One simple way to maximize your team’s input while minimizing the time you spend is to have your department heads send out surveys to their teams, while your role focuses on synthesizing the information they collect.
2. “I already have the right answer.”
This is probably the most dangerous assumption to make when you are leading a team. You may have an excellent solution to an issue, you may even get it right on your own most of the time, but don’t let this stop you from harnessing the power of your team. By perpetually relying on yourself, you are sure to miss out on cultivating innovative solutions and creative ideas for the issues you are trying to solve.
3. “My team doesn’t want to give input and doesn’t mind if I make decisions for them.”
Maybe this is true, but if this is an assumption, it is most likely false. Some teams have gotten so used to not being asked for input that they stop expecting to be able to give it. As a result, it can seem like members of the team really don’t care whether their opinion is asked. Even if it is true that your team members would rather have decisions made for them without their input, I would argue that your team is not reaching its full potential. Remember, a team’s superpower is in its ability to tap into the minds of all its members.
Tips for Getting Your Team’s Input
1. Serve as a Facilitator
When you are leading your team, there is obviously an obligation and assumption that you will be holding the steering wheel. But consider in discussions when you should take off your leader hat and put on your facilitator hat. You are not a subject matter expert in every area – that is why you built your team with highly capable people. You should be facilitating the discussion with your talented people, not “leading” it. This may seem like a minor difference, but facilitating gives your team the feeling that there is room for their input.
2. Encourage Everyone to Speak Up
It is often common for one or more members of a team to naturally speak less. Entire discussions can go by and, while they may be perfectly attentive, they may contribute little or not at all. This does not necessarily mean they have nothing to say – maybe they are just less inclined to speak up. So, ask them. Observe which team members have not given their input and encourage them to speak up. If you are worried that you may make someone uncomfortable, be intentional about talking to them separately after the meeting. The key is being intentional, because if you don’t call it out during the discussion, it is easy to forget.
3. If You Ask for Input from Others, Be Prepared to Consider It
If you take away anything from this article, make it this point: Only ask for others’ input if you are truly open to seriously considering it. If you say you value others’ input but never do anything about it, your team will quickly find it insincere and stop sharing it with you. There will obviously be times when you choose not to take an opinion, and you won’t be able to make everyone happy all the time. Your team needs to understand they won’t always get their way, but if it seems to them like they are wasting their breath, it won’t be long before they just stop speaking up.
One of the greatest privileges within any team is to have a voice that matters. When team members feel that their individual input is valued, they are more likely to feel more fulfilled and a sense of empowerment in their role. As a result, their creativity and energy soar, positively impacting not only their work but the client experience as well. As a leader, it is vital to foster a culture where every voice matters. In return, you will unlock the true potential of your team’s collaborative superpower to achieve extraordinary things together.