Does it have to be the leader who comes up with new ideas?

It’s certainly part of the job.

Somewhere in every leader’s job description is something about formulating and managing strategy so it’s definitely in the mix, but must it be their job and their’s alone?

No matter how good a leader you are, there’s one cliché you can’t outrun: nobody is as smart as everybody. And nobody can have as many ideas as everybody can have together.

That’s just maths.

The equation? Great stuff is more likely when you have more people dreaming up great stuff.

So if you’re looking for a source of red hot ideas on how to improve service, cut costs, sell more, or any other kind of innovation … don’t just look in the mirror.

Go to the front line, ask a question, and get your pen out.

Most employees deal with more problems, complaints, issues and snafu’s in a day than you’ll hear about in a month. They’ve been struggling against the system for years and are chock full of ways to improve everything from the voice mail message to the value proposition.

If only you’d ask.

And that’s a BIG point.

A my-door-is-always-open policy never really works. People are too busy, too shy, or just don’t think their idea is important enough to cross the boundary – even if it’s as simple as sticking an envelope in a suggestion box.

Innovation isn’t a waiting game. It’s farming — sow the seed that ideas are important, provide a climate that encourages them to show their heads and grow towards the sun. Reward anyone who helps them on their way.

In other words, you have to ask for help and then show — through action and attention — that ideas are worth nurturing. That ideas have value.

The upside is plain to see. Highly engaged employees actively looking to innovate and serve customers better.

As a leader, you probably can’t stop yourself having ideas, but remember that you’re not alone.

Don’t wait. Seek out and encourage your colleagues, cultivate the ground and shower the best ideas with follow-through.

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Leading Managing Skippiness