After bouncing an idea off of the members of your inner circle, how do you bring it to the rest of the organization and gather feedback? If you run an organization of, say, 500 people, you can’t bring that idea to everyone personally.
The answer: you have to make open communication and feedback a cultural norm.
Sharing Ideas from the Top Down
If I’m a leader, and I run an organization of 500 people, I have managers who are responsible for smaller groups of 10 or 12 people. My managers can bring ideas from the top levels to the smaller groups. That’s where voices can be heard and every employee can share their input. As the leader, it’s also up to me to monitor this process to ensure that nobody’s voice is being quashed.
Bringing Ideas Up from the Bottom
The smaller groups that managers run also need to be places where employees can share their own ideas, and not just respond to ideas from senior management. Managers need to ask their staff what they have to say and bring those ideas to the next level to make sure leadership acts, if need be.
Leadership is more detached from the frontline employees than management, but it still needs to give feedback on those employees’ ideas. Leaders need to let employees know that they’ve been heard, and they need to let employees know whether or not the organization is going to act on their idea. Employees should also know why the company is acting on their idea, or why it isn’t.
One way or another, when an employee offers an idea, you need to honor that – you need to say, “I heard you, and here’s what we’re going to do about it.”
Rich Hussey, the CEO of ThyssenKrupp Elevator America, has an interesting way of ensuring that employees at all levels are able to share their ideas with top management. Hussey has made it a best practice to always bring a few lower-level employees into senior-management meetings.
When an employee shares a good idea, Hussey encourages managers to recommend that that employee come to a senior management meeting to express the idea personally. In many organizations, when a lower-level employee has an idea, the manager takes credit for it. They bring the idea to leadership and act like they came up with it. Letting employees present their ideas personally guards against this.
When these employees come to the senior management meetings, they are allowed to participate as if they are on the same level as leadership. They get the chance to voice their opinions, and to freely agree or disagree with the other ideas on the floor. This is a good way to shake up the inner circle of senior leadership, because it guarantees that new perspectives are being added to the mix constantly.