We all want to make better decisions, but that’s impossible without input from key stakeholders. Those closest to projects know what’s driving or hindering the company. But chances are, you don’t hear enough from these people, and—as a result—not getting the information that could transform your company. Luckily, this sort of behavior can be changed for the better if you first take a closer look at how you and your staff interact and solve problems.
1. What you’re experiencing: fear of disagreement
A great meeting isn’t one where everyone sits silently in agreement but one where several views are shared, and where the best idea wins.
What you can do: Change the conversation. In a meeting, ask individuals, “What problems do you see?” or “What is the risk we’ll need to protect against?” Empower your staff by calling them to speak about what they know best, their speciality, and letting them know you value their understanding the downsides a decision might bring.
You have to teach people how to critique and share bad news without risk of retribution. Teach people not only how to disagree with their colleagues, but also how to bring you bad news. They should understand the problem and bring along solutions, or at least show how they’re working with others to bring about change.
Know that we have hundreds of years of programming that tell us “follow the boss” and much less evidence that says, “speak your mind.” Furthermore, people have been burned before, speaking truth to terrible leaders, so you’re dealing with their history. You may have to work twice as hard to get that feedback sometimes, with encouragement and praise.
2. What you’re experiencing: your own failure to listen
Great meetings also aren’t lectures. Ask yourself—do you talk more than you listen? And if someone is talking, are you waiting for your chance to speak? You might not realize it, but when you come to a situation with a pre-programmed agenda or point of view, your team can sense it, and you become a roadblock to your own innovation. It’s hazardous to put off a vibe of “here’s what I’m thinking we need to do” versus asking questions of your people to get their honest assessments.
What you can do: Talk less. Pose a question to the group and resist the urge to give your opinion. Instead, leave the talk open ended, so the team can explore it. Let the team run the discussion. You’re either listening or not, there’s no in-between, no gray area here.
3. What you’re experiencing: a lack of passion
You don’t get the sense that your team is fired up about the problems they’re solving for you. People clock in and clock out, and nothing more.
What you can do: It’s possible your team isn’t aligned with your mission. People don’t offer their best thinking or push the envelope when they don’t understand or don’t believe in the mission of the business. Check if this is the case by first asking staff casually, ‘If you were to state our mission in one sentence, what would you say?” If you get a number of different answers or if staffers are reluctant to talk about the mission, you know that’s the root of your problems.
You’ll need to educate your team on what the mission is—and ask their help for how it can evolve. Be careful to check big decisions against this mission and ensure they’re in alignment. When they aren’t, staffers don’t know what to expect and don’t feel comfortable giving honest feedback. Educating your team on the mission is not a simple or quick process but can bring a lot of clarity and simplicity to an organization.
In this process, you’ll see who adds value to the process of ideation and owning the execution. These are the ambitious, and once they understand your mission, they’ll often take professional risks and bring strong, innovative thinking to the table.
Of course, it’s possible some people on your team simply have no ambition. You’re not a good enough leader to motivate people who aren’t ambitious professionally—no one is. So stop it! Ambitious people want to solve big problems, while people who lack ambition run from them. You’re not in the rehab business; you’re in the mentoring business. You can’t fix the DNA of the individual. The best thing you can do is find them another team that aligns better to their needs. It’s better to be down a person and create a smaller team of ballers than to have one person dragging down a fully-staffed team.
It’s up to you to create a culture where people can speak their minds, place their ideas into real consideration, and share feedback in constructive ways without consequences. Don’t be a roadblock to your own success by undermining your own people. Teach your teams the best ways to communicate, and rid your team of non-believers and those lacking the real ambition to stay ahead of the pack.
As CEO of the technology company I-Cubed, Donald Thompson was given the reigns at age 36, and dramatically grew the organization until it was acquired by the global technology enterprise, KPIT, in 2014. A version of this article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Copyright © 2017 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.