My ten year old daughter once asked me, “Daddy, the next time we move, can we hook up a bunch of balloons to our house and just move our entire home?”
Oh the imagination of a child. I’m sure that my little girl has vivid images of colorful balloons tied to the bottom of our house that would float the structure to anywhere we might choose to go.
As I thought about how to respond, the realist in me was tempted to reply, “Of course not, honey. It doesn’t really work like that.” The optimist part of me was tempted to say, “Absolutely, dear. I’d connect a million balloons to our house to move it for you.”
In business, when you lead an organization you need to be decisive. When team members come to you with ideas, you need to be prepared to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. But sometimes, perhaps there is a better response than ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
In my experience as a leader, I’ve had team members come to me with, “we should pursue this product,” or “we should do this event.” Many times, I am tempted to quickly reply with “no.” But what if this idea could actually be our next million dollar idea?
So as a leader, when I’m inclined to say “no”, I’ve learned these three magic word: “Tell me more.”
Responding with “tell me more” can be a powerful tool for any leader for several reasons.
First, it avoids simply shutting down a team member. You can always say “no” later, but asking your team member to “tell me more” is an invitation for them to contribute to the organization and to possibly make you a better leader as well by learning something new.
Second, it gives you the opportunity to think more about the team member and exactly what they are proposing. Maybe they have a good idea, or maybe it’s not a good idea. “Tell me more” will give you the opportunity to learn more about your team member’s proposal. Great leaders also have a way of drawing out the best in their team members. It could be that you need to help your team member develop their idea just a little bit more.
Third, by responding with “tell me more” you are communicating to your team member that you genuinely care about them and about their ideas. Team members that are constantly told “no” will eventually stop proposing ideas. While their current idea may not be great, your encouragement could lead your team member to the next great idea. “Tell me more,” conveys a message that you, as a leader, believe that your team member is a valuable part of the organization.
Three magic words could be the difference between an average organization and an exceptional organization. “Tell me more,” could lead to the next million-dollar idea for your organization.
So the next time your mind is ready to say “no” to a team member’s idea, try responding with “tell me more.”