Why Aren’t You Hearing Your Team’s Best Ideas?

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Why are the people on the frontline such dullards? I mean, really, these people couldn’t come up with a creative idea if their jobs depended on it. Thank goodness you don’t expect too much from them, right? Because if God forbid, your business somehow depended on them for creativity, you’d be in serious trouble! Am I right?

No, I’m not right. I’m very, very wrong. And if the above paragraph sounds like either you or your business, you are very, very wrong as well.

And it’s probably hurting you.


The truth is that your frontline people—the ones who may be on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder—could very possibly have the best ideas to move your business forward. After all, they’re the ones closest to the action. They’re the ones who hear from your customers and clients first hand. They’re the ones who are working within your systems, your policies, your guidelines day after day after day. The ideas they may have for how to improve your organization could be worth gold.

But if you’re not hearing them, they’re worth nothing.

Your team has ideas that are priceless. But if you don’t hear them, they’re worthless. #creativity #leadership Share on X

So, if they have such great ideas, why aren’t you hearing them?

Two reasons:

  1. Remember that corporate ladder? Every rung on that ladder represents a level of management between the initial idea and you. And at any one of those rungs, the idea can get altered, sabotaged—or killed. In most organizations, the odds of an idea—even a good idea—making it from the bottom rung to the top rung unscathed are virtually nil.
  2. If the Ladder of Death™ (yes, I’ve chosen to call it the Ladder of Death™, because it sounds cool) starts to become the norm, then the people on the lower rungs will simply stop trying to share ideas. They’ll actually stop coming up with them. Can you blame them?

If you, as a leader, want to make sure you find out about these potential game-changing ideas, then your entire organization needs to hear it. And they need to hear it from you. Let me offer two suggestions:

  1. Communicate with your managers, on every rung. Make it clear to them that you are committed to the idea that good ideas can come from anyone in the organization! Let them know that you expect them to actively encourage creative ideas from any of their direct reports, and to ensure their direct reports that their ideas will be heard.
  2. Get down from the ladder from time to time. Talk to the people on the frontline. Ask them how things can be done better. Listen to their ideas. Once they—and their managers—see that this is a real value of yours, and not just lip service, they’ll start to open up. Will every idea be brilliant? Not a chance. Many—most, in fact—will be pretty forgettable. But then, all of a sudden, there will be that one. The one that makes all the difference. Because if one of your frontline people—the ones who are in direct contact with the customer—gives you an idea that increases customer loyalty by 10%—well, how much is that worth to you?
If you’re at the top rung of the ladder, everyone on the lower rungs takes their cues from you. #leadership Share on X

If you’re at the top rung of the ladder, everyone on the lower rungs takes their cues from you. They will start to value what you value. And what better to value than creative ideas? Because, when push comes to shove, you business just might depend on the creative ideas of your frontline.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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