One Really Bad Habit-The Idea Shutdown!

I have been working with a leadership team that has a bad habit, The Idea Shutdown- they constantly shut down their colleagues ideas.  Why?  I am sure you can think of all of the reasons this happens!  I don’t want to make a long list of the reasons here.  What I want to do is show how these actions fall into specific categories.

John Kotter of the Harvard Business School did some research on this.

He came up with four common strategies that people use to shoot down leaders’ ideas:

1. fear-mongering

2. death by delay

3. confusion

4. ridicule

He goes on to detail that these attacks are typically executed through two dozen familiar questions, arguments, and com- ments. Any of these, alone or together, can kill a genuinely good idea.

1. We’ve been successful. Why change?

2. Money [or some other problem a proposal does not address] is the only real issue.

3. You exaggerate the problem.

4. You’re implying that we’ve been failing!

5. What’s the hidden agenda here?

6. What about this, and that, and this, and that…?

7. Your proposal goes too far/doesn’t go far enough.

8. You have a chicken and egg problem.

9. Sounds like [something horrible] to me!

10. You’re abandoning our core values.

11. It’s too simplistic to work.

12. No one else does this.

13. You can’t have it both ways.

14. Aha! What about THIS? [“this” being a worrisome thing that the proposers know nothing about and the attackers keep secret until just the right moment]

15. People have too many concerns.

16. Tried that before—didn’t work.

17. It’s too difficult to understand.

18. Good idea, but the timing is wrong.

19. It’s just too much work to do this.

20. It won’t work here. We’re different.

21. It puts us on a slippery slope.

22. We can’t afford this.

23. You’ll never convince enough people.

24. We’re simply not equipped to do this.

Do you recognize any of these statements that you have used in collaboration with colleagues, co-workers, customers, stakeholder or team members?

Next blog post will look at how we can hold “two truths”, one that represents the list above in a way that does not shut down ideas and fosters innovation.

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