Creativity and innovation are at the core of great teams. The real challenge then, for leaders, is bringing them to the forefront. 

Could we be silencing some of the most creative ideas in our meetings without even knowing it? 

As a leader we aren’t just responsible for thinking up great ideas. We are responsible for bringing out great ideas. But when we let one or more of these phrases slip out of our mouth we can unintentionally undermine the creative potential in the room.

1. “I think we should”

Even if there are better ideas in the room, these words suggest you have already decided on a course of action.

Simon Sinek suggests two reasons why leaders should be the last to speak (see the video here):

  • It gives everybody else the feeling that they have been heard and that they have contributed.
  • You get the benefit of hearing what everybody else has to think before you render your opinion.

Instead try leading with “What do you think we should do?”  

2. “I don’t like it”

The tension we manage as leaders is knowing how to value a persons perspectivewhen we don’t share a persons preference. Say thank you…even if you disagree. 

Our greatest ideas are born in collaboration. Collaboration requires unique perspectives and those perspectives may not always align with our preferences. 

When you’re tempted to jump in with your opinion, try asking “What does everyone think of that idea?” or “Help me better understand what you mean?”

3. “We’ve already tried it”

Some of our most creative ideas might just be waiting behind our biggest mistakes.

Google Post-It Notes, WD-40, BubbleWrap and the PaceMaker, all hugely successful innovations born out of failure. 

When you hear an idea that’s already been tried, why not ask “What didn’t work last time we tried that?” Or “How could we avoid making the same mistakes as last time?”. 

4. “We don’t have the budget”

Money can be a real challenge, but it doesn’t always have to be the main issue. It is possible for big ideas to fit into small budgets if teams will operate with open minds.

Rather then telling people why ‘this won’t work’, try asking how ‘this could work’.

Why not ask the question “How can we shape this idea to fit within our allocated budget?”

In short, as a leader, be slow to speak, react, critique and tell. But be quick to listen, explore, rediscover and ask.