I once worked with a guy who said to me, “I don’t think you’ve ever heard an idea you didn’t like”. He was right. I know about myself as a leader that I can be guilty of having a million “good” ideas. I also know that can be dangerous as a leader.
I’m a self-proclaimed idea guy. I can see so much we could or should be doing and I want to do them all now. The problem is I can add too many ideas and the people trying to follow feel they can never keep up. Before they gain traction on what they are currently working on I throw another idea on the table.
Can I get any witnesses to that?
Unfortunately, I’ve been that way all my career. I’m seasoned enough that I know how it frustrates people. I’m likely not going to be able to shut down the ideas that come in my head. In fact, I don’t want to. but I have learned how to lead through the myriad of ideas.
How to navigate as a leader with a million good ideas:
Record every idea you have.
There’s nothing wrong with having ideas. In fact, every organization needs some new good ideas. Plus, you can’t usually reach one good idea without working through a few bad ones – sometimes many bad ones.
Keep the list of the ideas.
I use Evernote or Google Docs and I have several such lists. I frequently go to them, add things, take things off, and prioritize them. Most of these lists I share with our team. It’s good “therapy” for me just to get them recorded. As I look at the list repeatedly, some of them flesh themselves out as being good – or not. Or, maybe good ideas but the timing isn’t right now.
Limit yourself to chase a few ideas at a time.
This is the hard part, but you can’t do everything and be effective. You know this, but it is still a hard discipline. Elimination of clutter and providing clarity is a necessary part of leadership. That requires a narrowing of focus.
Also, if possible, delegate some of the ideas. It could be you are trying to do things, which are great ideas, but someone else needs to be doing them.
Give your team plenty of latitude to push back.
Let people tell you when you have a bad idea. Or when you are pushing them too hard. Be humble and approachable. Strive not to be controlling.
I always try to hold others to limit attempting more than a few things at a time also.
That doesn’t mean they can say no to everything. I want all of us to be achieving something new. Part of good leadership is helping people achieve more than they thought they could. That could involve training, encouraging, celebrating wins, or challenging when necessary.
Make sure you don’t hold people to an unreasonable pace.
Leaders set the pace of the organization. Remember everyone isn’t wired like you. Don’t be unrealistic. Make sure you are disciplining yourself as discussed above, but some people will simply remove themselves from the organization if they can’t keep up or feel over-worked or under-appreciated. Everyone is not a good fit for every style of leadership, but you can’t lead without people, so don’t wear them out unnecessarily.
And here’s another higher principle to keep in mind.
As a leader, and leaders wired like me can get this one out of order if we aren’t careful, but you have to learn to:
Value people over progress.
Learning and living that one principle will actually makes for a better leader.
Lead forward with the few ideas you believe in most. You can’t stall the organization, because of other people’s resistance. Change will always bring resistance from someone. Again, part of leadership is taking people somewhere they couldn’t see or realize on their own. That’s always difficult for someone at first.
At the same time, good leaders don’t intentionally frustrate people. The process of guiding change can (and will be) frustrating at times. Guard your heart, make sure you’re not being unrealistic, don’t attempt too much at one time, help people when they need it, but don’t be afraid to stretch people within reason. It’s the only way people and organizations grow.