Excellent leaders bring out the best in their employees. They can create environments where their team members can excel and unlock their full potential, including their collaborative abilities.
As a leader, you are probably interested in transforming your team or department into a more collaborative unit. Having collaborative staff members who willingly and can easily share their ideas with others is a good asset for your company.
Aside from benefiting from your employees through their work experience, you can use their knowledge and ideas in growing your company. All you need to do is take advantage of their suggestions and communication skills to come up with new ideas that will help you develop new policies at work or revise existing ones.
Listening to your team members’ ideas can also provide you with new perspectives on issues and concerns that you need to address. Hearing their suggestions can help you create new strategies that will enhance your projects.
But how do you encourage your team members to share their ideas? According to excellent leaders, you need to find creative but subtle ways that will make your workplace a more collaborative space. To help you get started, here are some of the things you can do to urge your employees to speak up.
Establish a collaborative company culture
One of the most effective ways of encouraging open communication in the workplace is by starting with your company culture. This essential concept will define your company’s identity from the point of view of your employees and may even influence how they act in the workplace.
To start, your employees need to see that your work culture accommodates idea sharers and those who have feedback. You might think that you need to create a largely informal, small, or open environment to encourage your team members to share their thoughts, but this isn’t always the case for companies.
In fact, one of the most important things you need to do in showing your employees that you have a collaborative company culture is by demonstrating that you accept feedback and suggestions through open channels of communication.
Directly stating that you encourage and appreciate their feedback and ideas will also help foster a collaborative culture in your company.
In addition, you should train your managers and other team members to practice this particular part of your company’s culture every day.
This means being supportive of employees who had the courage to talk about their ideas and raise them with the team. You should also remind them to never be hostile to anyone who provides their suggestions, whether they’re helpful or not.
Once all the leaders in your company start practicing collaboration in their daily tasks, it will seamlessly be incorporated into your company culture. After a while, your employees will begin emulating the openness of their managers, making your workplace a more collaborative space.
Dealing with communication barriers is one of the most common reasons why your team members are having trouble with collaboration. These challenges may affect how your employees get along with each other and may even lead to miscommunication in your workplace.
If not addressed immediately, communication barriers can affect your team’s productivity and cause your company to suffer.
Since miscommunication is one of the most common concerns that may arise from communication barriers, this is where you should shift your focus. You should teach your employees to become more open and clearer about what they want to communicate to avoid misunderstandings. In turn, your workplace will become a more harmonious place where everyone is happy and productive.
However, teaching your staff to become more effective communicators is not an easy task. There also aren’t a lot of subtle ways to do it. Fortunately, you can always lead by example.
You can encourage your team members to be more open in the workplace and communicate more clearly when you show vulnerability. You can do this by displaying authenticity in what you say and do. To start, you can tell them the story about the biggest failure in your life or your personal fears.
Once your employees see your openness and willingness to share your flaws and mistakes, they are more likely to trust you as their leader because they know you’re honest with them. In turn, they will become more willing to share their ideas and feedback with you and collaborate with their team members.
Provide feedback and idea-sharing opportunities
Sometimes, your employees might be hesitant to share their ideas and feedback in front of others because of their fears. First, they might be afraid of getting ridiculed if their idea turned out wrong or irrelevant. They might also be discouraged from sharing their suggestions for fear of annoying other employees by being off-topic.
There are many things you can do to address this problem. One of the most common methods you can try is to encourage every member of your team to talk to each other and collaborate while accomplishing their day-to-day responsibilities.
No matter how simple or grand their collaborative work is, sharing ideas is a great way to initiate trust-building in your workplace. After a while of continuing this exercise, your team members will become more confident in talking about their ideas, no matter how many people are listening to them.
Although building trust through the simple exercise described above is effective, it isn’t always practical for every company. Sometimes, employees are required to work on their own to complete their tasks for the day, preventing them from collaborating with their teammates. To address this concern, you should provide your employees with other opportunities to share their feedback and ideas.
One thing you can do is implement an open-door culture in your workplace. This means your team members should know you’ll always find time in your day to listen to their ideas, suggestions, and feedback. You should also create a safe space in your office where they can freely express their thoughts without fear of being judged or reprimanded.
Additionally, you should set aside some time after every meeting for feedback and suggestions. Give your employees a few minutes to process everything discussed in the meeting and let natural conversation emerge.
With enough time, your employees will start throwing ideas back and forth and collaborating without any guidance.
Treat good and bad ideas equally
Most of the time, employees get discouraged from sharing their ideas because they think their suggestions might not be good enough.
They might even be afraid of being ridiculed or ignored when the ideas they give don’t meet your expectations, aren’t perfect, or aren’t worth sharing. These reasons may be hampering you from finding the solution you’re looking for for your concerns.
Although it might not seem so, bad or strange ideas can actually help you come up with great strategies that will allow you to solve certain issues in the workplace. They help your team members think of good alternatives to bad ideas or other topics that can be explored further.
Bad or strange ideas can also guide your discussions away from subjects that will not be helpful to your current situation.
So, what you need to do is encourage your employees to share their ideas no matter how outrageous they are. You can do this by making them comfortable with sharing anything and everything with you and the team.
They should feel that their ideas will be accepted the same way whether they’re good or bad. You should also remind them that whatever their suggestion is, it can lead the team to the solution you’re looking for.
To help improve team morale before a meeting or a brainstorming session, you can begin with an activity. Before discussing your agenda, have everyone in the room take turns in sharing terrible and outrageous ideas. After a few rounds, your team members will feel more comfortable sharing their ideas without pressure.
Reward idea sharing
People sometimes don’t voluntarily participate in meetings or activities if they don’t gain anything from doing so. This might be the reason you’re not getting any feedback from your team members whenever you’re in a meeting or brainstorming session. To address this problem, you should encourage your team members and reward your staff for sharing ideas.
Giving incentives to employees who share their ideas whenever necessary is also better than having a fear-based culture in the workplace.
Instead of hesitating to speak out for fear of being punished or ignored, your team members will feel eager to share their ideas because they know they can be rewarded for doing so. It also doesn’t matter if they throw in ideas that contradict others or suggest something completely different from what you’re focusing on.
Employees who are rewarded for speaking up instead of being deemed non-compliant will also be more likely to be engaged at work and exhibit better work performance. In turn, these benefits can boost your team’s morale and make your workplace a better collaborative space for your team.
On the other hand, if you can’t give out actual rewards or incentives to your employees for sharing their ideas, you should at least make sure to acknowledge them whenever they speak up. You can always thank them for taking the time to give their suggestion and show them you appreciate their idea.
If possible, you can also show them how you made use of their idea and incorporated it into the strategy you created.
Offer avenues for anonymous feedback
Sometimes, even companies with an open-door culture still have to deal with introverted employees who are not comfortable with speaking up. Even when they know that their ideas will be received kindly, some people still hesitate to share their thoughts because of their shyness.
This can then prevent you from hearing possibly great ideas that can be beneficial to your project or company.
Employees who are often willing to share their ideas may also be hesitant to do so when their suggestions might be deemed strange. Although they are often confident in giving their feedback, they might be afraid of being ridiculed by their teammates if they suggest something weird.
To make every member of your team comfortable in sharing their ideas, one thing you can do is provide them with different avenues for anonymous feedback. With this, your employees can easily communicate their thoughts without having to overcome their shyness or share their peculiar ideas in front of others.
You can encourage your team members with a channel for anonymous feedback by leaving a drop box in the office. You can then ask them to submit their anonymous feedback using the box. After every week or month, read out the suggestions in the box and discuss them with your team during meetings.
Additionally, you can take advantage of digital transformation to provide more channels to your employees. One thing you can do is set up an online form where your team members can anonymously submit their ideas. Then, share the link with them via email so they can access it whenever necessary.
Give thoughtful responses
Another way to encourage your team members to share their ideas is to give thoughtful responses. You can only achieve this when you actively listen to your team members whenever they’re speaking up.
This means that instead of waiting for them to finish talking so you can start speaking again, you should focus on what they’re saying and be fully present to understand their idea.
Then, once you have heard what your employee has to say, make sure to show you’re interested. You can do this by asking follow-up questions and making any clarifications.
Once you’re sure you understand your employee’s idea, you should explain what you’re thinking. Before determining whether the idea presented is good or bad, you should first explain the reasons that influenced your decisions.
Take your team members through your thought process so they can understand how you assess their ideas. Helping them connect the dots will also make it clear that you think about every suggestion carefully instead of simply shooting them down.
Your employees possess creativity that you should take advantage of. You can do this by asking them for ideas and feedback whenever you’re facing some obstacles in the workplace.
Encouraging your team members to share their ideas in the workplace allows you to gain new perspectives on issues that you might be facing in your organisation.
There are many ways to urge your employees to speak up and share their thoughts. Some of the subtle ways you can achieve this have been discussed in this article. If you want to encourage collaboration in your workplace, you should give the tips we provided a try.
About the Author
Bernard San Juan III is the Managing Partner of Truelogic who comes from a successful career in online companies, where he played a critical role in building & managing workforce groups. His skills include managing performance, managing costs and training.