Ever had a solid leader on your team come to you with an idea that they're excited about but you're just not? You could just say no to it. You could say yes to it to avoid hurting their feelings. You could bury the idea in a mountain of bureaucratic approvals, hoping they'll give up along the way. All bad options, right?
Try this instead. Listen fully to the idea. Ask questions, good questions. Questions about what gave them the idea. Questions about how the idea makes money and what data they used to come up with their projections. Then, if you still think the idea is not worth pursuing but the leader has a track record of winning, try these magic words: "I don't think the idea will work; but you have earned the right to try it." BOOM! You just candidly and honestly told your leader you're not a fan of the idea; BUT you have so much confidence in them as a leader that you are still going to give them the rope to take the idea to the next step. This does several things immediately.
- It lets them know where you stand and that they've got some things to prove if this idea is going to get all the way off the ground.
- It tells them how much you believe in them and that they have EARNED your respect.
- It causes them to come back with their very best work.
Twenty years ago, my leader and I had an idea that we pitched to our leader, Dave Ramsey. He listened, asked questions and then told us he thought the idea would not work; but that we had earned the right to prove him wrong. We walked out of his office both exhilarated and a little nervous that we were sort of on our own to make this work. Well, not only did the idea work; but it became and still is to this day one of the biggest, most profitable things we ever did. Dave was a good sport about being wrong and we all enjoyed the financial rewards for decades to come.
Try it. If the idea is bad, they'll probably see it with you before long. And if the idea is good, you get to enjoy the pleasant surprise of an idea you didn't think would work.