There are a few effective options.
You could shut down the idea. You could explain how there aren’t resources available for this idea. You could let her know that you don’t have time for her idea.You could explain why this idea is bad.
Or worse yet, you could pretend to listen, and give a well-crafted response that effectively steers her away from her idea. Brainwash her into mediocrity.
But you don’t. You lead.
You take this wonderful distraction from your mindless tasks and make yourself present. Take a deep breath, or three as the idea is being explained. You figure it out. You ask your employee to detail the parts that don’t make sense to you. You present obstacles from your perspective. You present your fears of what would happen if that idea were to materialize. The change it would bring. You bring yourself into the conversation.
You lead this brave person down the winding, twisted road of maturing the idea. Letting it take root and grow in her mind, and in your mind. Letting it blossom into a vision. A plan.
This may not conclude with the first talk. But you don’t stop until you have led her through the cultivation of a strong sapling of the idea, and it is agreed that both of you are climbing the same tree.
And now that the idea has taken root, and grown out of your own mind, you have little trouble bringing the seeds to your manager. And finding a bit of the same courage that your report brought to you. Because she did the hard part of initiating the conversation. You only have to explain, with earnest effort, how this could change the organization. Or the process. Or the dynamics. To make things much better.
Management is the art of getting the job done with limited resources. Or maintaining the idea that resources are limited to just what they are limited to.
Managing in a factory is inevitable. There are many cogs, and when one starts to squeak, you give it oil, and make sure the job somehow gets done. You tamper ambition and energy that strays from the set product or method. You make sure that things run smoothly.
But people have ideas. They have inspiration. They have dreams. And it’s hard to pretend to be a cog in the machine. Even when their children’s livelihood depends on it. Even when their rent is on the line. Yes, it is on the line.
Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. Or the next day. But eventually, in the plain view of the Universe, seemingly joint, but truthfully separate, paths diverge.
So, in the midst of managing, be sure to lead. Become fluent in the language of new, the tongues that can change, the ideas that can infect and make things uncomfortable and different. Because you have the ability to translate that into the language of old. Of manufacturing.
Our world is growing. We have long surpassed the age of factories described by Marx, and entered the world of free thinking and knowledge embodiment encouraged by the same thinker.
If you speak only the language of management, you will be left behind in a pile of cogs. All others will follow leaders into the growth of ideas, constant change, and fearless exploration. People want to be well, not just fed. Including you.
You can hide, you can quiet the thinkers, and then you can pretend to have been a believer all along as change begins to obliterate the walls around you. Or you can be true to yourself now and allow yourself to resonate with truth from others. And hold the hammer in your hand that obliterates rotting walls.
So lead the holders of seeds to fertile soil and give them water.
To powerful living,