I have crappy ideas all the time and I welcome people telling me, but most people don’t dare to because they’re intimidated by the boss. They should though – leaders make mistakes.
My terrible ideas often come from being under pressure to make many different decisions across the business. Those who are earlier in their career are usually focused on a specific task or department, so I always say to my team: “You guys are on the frontline, you’re far more knowledgeable than me about this area. Update me on what’s going on.” I see my role as intelligence gathering for the long-term good of the business. If you think my idea is awful, you should tell me!
The best way is to offer an alternative. There is nothing more frustrating than someone who shoots down ideas without supplying their own. Make a case by playing to your unique vantage point – what you know of your customers, what you have learned during your time at the company and the productive working methods you’ve devised.
To increase your advantage and impress your boss, it also helps to suggest a new business theory from a book you have read that he or she has not. Then, once you’ve pitched your alternative method, suggest testing it for a week or two, followed by a meeting to report results. Your idea might not work, but at least you had time to explore, learn and grow.
I had a brilliant boss, Melanie, who allowed me to pursue pointless projects with a strict time frame, knowing I would see my errors and learn from the experience. Once, I tried to get the business to build a boutique curated from its many different product lines but it was impossible to try to change the buying practices at the time. These are the leaders you remember.
• Sharmadean Reid is the founder of WAH Nails and beautystack.com
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010