In my leadership work with business owners and executives, I often hear the question: "How can I motivate and inspire my people to perform on a higher level, solve problems more independently, and receive a regular flow of unsolicited ideas to increase my company's level of innovation?"
Here's my response. I have outlined a simple 3-step strategy that you can apply in every situation where you provide feedback or guidance to an employee that will encourage and motivate them to share their new ideas. One thing I want you to know before you start: this strategy only works if you make it a fundamental part of your mindset and continuously apply it. It truly must become a habit and natural response in your repertoire of leadership skills. It simply will not work if it's artificially applied. You must honestly mean it and feel it!
Step 1: See people on the highest level.
This is the basis of the strategy. Put your focus on all the great skills and qualities you can find in the person. Don't stop on a superficial level and think: "… he's doing his job pretty well, he’s a good guy." Go deep. You must be one hundred percent present and specific when you focus on his best talents and highest qualities. Say to yourself, for example, "The way he's speaking and articulating himself is incredible. With his level of clarity and energy he is representing our company in the best possible way." Here, it is important to check your own ego and increase your level of self-awareness. It is often hard to give someone, particularly a team member or employee, a lot of credit and acknowledgement. A brilliant leader steps up to the plate and rejoices in fulling seeing the person’s quality as a big asset for his firm or team.
Apply this view whenever you engage in a feedback conversation with your employee and constantly seek out ways to find and integrate more of his better qualities and skills into his work. I know you might think now that this is a bunch of BS, that this person is not good at this specific thing and he needs to improve it and by me just not focusing on it he will not get better. I totally understand this thought. Not everyone is excellent at everything, but remember one thing - whatever your focus on will expand (positive or negative) - so the more you elicit qualities and skills in people and elevate them, the better the people will become. And here's another big thing, the more you elevate your employees the quicker they will improve on skills they weren't good at before and they better they will perform. And why? It’s because the more you constantly connect them with their inherent resources and talents in what they naturally excel in, the better they will feel, the more confident the will be, and the more inspiration and enthusiasm they will express. The secret of this philosophy is that you will see yourself surrounded by more and more brilliant people who will contribute to your company's success. You will be in GOOD COMPANY ;-)
Step 2: Discover their bright spots and success stories.
Find examples in their work that were exceedingly good. Find situations when they performed on the highest level, did something unexpected that turned into success, contributed with innovative ideas, and solved problems without much advice and guidance from your side. Get curious and find out what they exactly did in these situations. Ask them: "How did you convince this new prospect to partner with us? What exactly did you do, what steps did you follow?" Learn the strategy they followed and the steps they took and give them credit for that. Praise works wonders if you connect it to a specific situation or incident. It will become the resource for your employee to do more of it and to share it so that others can also learn and benefit from his talent and knowledge. Your job as a leader is to discover these bright spots and provide very specific feedback and acknowledgement that will elevate that person.
Step 3: Turn successes into repeatable strategies.
Now you can ask yourself: “How can I support this person to repeat these success stories more often in his work.” Also ask your employee directly and work with him to develop the ideal conditions and circumstances that will enable him to perform on the highest level. Once you understand what he needs you will be much better at creating and providing the resources for success. He will thank you with providing a high level of commitment, outstanding performance, and a flood of new ideas that can contribute to your companies level of innovation.
About Sascha Bosio