Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Asking For Employee Input And Actually Using It

A supervisor shared his experience: “I would like to ask employees their thoughts about problems or just about work issues, but it comes back to haunt me every time! Sometimes their ideas are so lacking in reality that I can’t help but get irritated. Worse is when I get five ideas from five different people and all of them complain because I didn’t take their advice!”

It sounds as though that supervisor could use some new methods for how he asks for input from employees and how he uses it.

Asking for input the right way.

  • Pick the right time. Don’t expect the most effective input when someone is just walking in the door or getting ready to leave or if they are very busy. Consider scheduling the time.
  • Ask for thoughts or ideas, not for advice. Advice comes with an expectation that you will take it or reject it. Thoughts or ideas are simply expressions of opinions to add to someone else’s thought processes.
  • Ask for thoughts not rants. Sometimes a general “what do you think” is OK, but try to focus the remarks of the employee toward the information you are seeking. Don’t reward people who are known for arguing or getting angry, by implying you like that behavior. Not, “Greg, if anyone can find the flaw in this you surely can.” Or, “Lisa, let me know what you hate about this idea.”
  • Give people time to think about it. Most of us can quickly produce a half-baked idea. However, have you noticed that your best thoughts come after a conversation? Give people a chance to cogitate about the subject in which you want their input–even if only for a few minutes. Email or call ahead. Or, do as Captain Rudy Phannenstiel used to do with me: “I’ve got to make a phone call but I’ll be done in about fifteen minutes. Be thinking about this and I’ll get back to you.” He always did and I had ideas ready! (Surprise, huh?)
  • Let them know how you’ll use their thoughts. Make it clear that you’re getting several ideas and want theirs as well. Or, perhaps you just want to hear someones philosophy about a topic–say that too. Don’t promise that all ideas will be used or that you’ll make a choice based on suggestions. Just listen.

Responding to input and using it.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say you’re better off not asking for input at all than asking for it but not acknowledging it–but that’s near to the truth most of the time. Your response to input and how you use it are key issues that can make getting input a positive or negative experience.

  • Whether you agree or disagree, acknowledge that you listened and heard. A few simple statements can let people know that you have listened and heard. “That’s good for me to know.” “That’s a viewpoint I need to hear.” “This gives me something to consider.” “Interesting way to look at it. Thanks.” “Hmm. I’ll add that to the opinions I’ve gotten from other people. Thanks.”
  • Emphasize positive aspects of the conversation. “I was wondering what you thought about it, so thanks for letting me know.” “I’ve asked several people and I wanted to be sure to ask you.” “I think of all of you as the best resources I can have.” “I’m lucky to have someone with your background here.”
  • Make notes so you can remember. A month from now or next year, it will be good to have a few reminders about ideas you’ve received or the opinions of employees or others. Take the time to send yourself an email or make a file folder, if you asked for thoughts about something significant.
  • Follow up, even if very casually. If you frequently ask for input you don’t need to send a thank you note each time you listen to an employee. However, you can certainly make the effort to say a quick thanks. “Thanks again for your thoughts today.” If someones ideas were a large part of your deliberation or if you used their ideas or suggestions, put it in writing.
  • When possible, reflect employee input on performance evaluations. Use your notes to remind you and them that you value their contributions. A few sentences is enough, unless the input was extremely valuable. “In this reporting period Cheryl was a helpful resource about several key issues. Among them….”

The bottom line: Look for chances to ask people with whom you work for their thoughts, opinions, experiences, concerns, observations, ideas–and now and then, perhaps, advice. Make it a positive process for you and for them. It’s a great way to strengthen relationships, learn more about others and gain insights you need for effectiveness.

July 26th, 2011 Posted by | Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 5 comments

Ken Blanchard and Tina Lewis Rowe — We Agree About Praise

About Praising

Praise what you want to have repeated. To praise someone means to commend them, congratulate them, honor them, extol their virtues, go into raptures over something they have done, or to strongly compliment them. Those descriptions set some high standards for what is praiseworthy! It also reminds us that there is a difference between thanking someone and praising them.

Ken Blanchard and Tina Lewis Rowe. Ken Blanchard wrote about the One Minute Praise in his books on the One Minute Manager concept. I teach about the Instant Impact Praise, which is praise that only takes a few seconds.  Both Ken and I (If I had ever met him I am sure I would call him by his first name) point out that praising not only emphasizes what behavior and performance is valued, it also is a way of saying that the employee is valuable. That is what makes praise so effective.

Tips for praising in ways that mean more to employees and you:

 1. Praise individuals. Telling everyone in staff meeting that you appreciate all they have done is appropriate. However, it will not have the same impact as communicating with each individual. If you have more than twenty people to praise, you may have to rely on mass compliments. If you have a smaller number, thank each person for his or her specific role.

2. Praise specifically. There are times when a general “good job” is sufficient, because the employee knows what you are talking about. Most of the time praise should be specific. For one thing, “good job” is not really praising, it is simply acknowledging in a rather tepid way.

3. Praise honestly.  When a supervisor walks through a workplace, smiling and saying, “Good work!” to everyone, it dilutes the praise for those who really are doing a good job, and gives false approval to those who are not. Look for ways to praise to the appropriate level of accomplishment, and look for ways to recognize what is praiseworthy.

* Develop a Praise Phrase Vocabulary: Use the concepts that fit the work and the person, and praise high enough to show how valuable the work and the employee really is. “Wow! You’re really impressive in the way you handle an upset customer.” “That was exactly the way that project needed to be done.” “This report is a masterpiece of organization.” “You are certainly catching on to this assignment considering the short time you have worked on it. You’re doing the inventory just right.” “When I hear compliments from clients like the ones I heard about this program, I am so glad you work here!”

Don’t those sound more like praise, than, “Good job”? You need to say more than one sentence. But, even if you have to stop at that because of time or the situation, you will have really praised!

* Praise when it is merited, not just to be tossing out praise. Praise is a form of training, because it lets employees know what is valued, and encourages them to do it again. If you praise when work or behavior is not good, or if you praise in generalities when only one specific thing was good, you still are training–but not about the right things.

If you think you will never be able to praise an employee, because he or she is not very praiseworthy, consider these two thoughts: 1. Watch more closely and find something to praise–it nearly always is there. 2. If there really isn’t anything to praise, what are you doing about it?

Enjoy praising–it is one of the best perks of being a supervisor or manager.

Most coworkers do not praise each other. If they do, the praise is more like friendly support. When a manager or supervisor praises it often has more value to the employee–not always, but often. Praise individually, specifically and honestly, and it will brighten an employee’s day, and yours too!

July 10th, 2008 Posted by | Supervision and Management | 5 comments