Thank goodness for evolution. You know, evolution: that thing that has trained up over millions of years to (mostly) not do really hare-brained, death-inducing things.
Jump off that bridge? Instincts say no.
Stick my head in that lion’s mouth? Seems like a pretty bad idea.
Eat day old sushi from my local gas station market? Well, I was pretty hungry…
But, here’s the problem. Those same instincts (current salmonella poisoning notwithstanding) tend to make us a little too risk-averse. In our own lives, they might have stopped us from applying for the promotion for which were actually qualified, for registering for the triathlon that we knew we just wanted to finish, for talking to that cute coffee shop patron. They are our own personal, internal Party of No.
As a manager, this Party of No instinct can be deadly to the confidence of your employees. Imagine a staff meeting where you ask for ideas where every suggestion is met with a “no.” Perhaps you say it outright. Perhaps you are just countering each raised hand with a logical and accurate reasoning about why it can’t be done. Eventually, the hands will no longer raise, and you will be alone.
Instead of being the Party of No, be the Party of the Possible. (Notice that I’m not trying to throw you into the deep end of the Party of Yes, but I assure you that you’ll find your own way there with momentum.) Practice the art of the possible, no matter what even if what’s possible requires an ounce of courage and dash of ‘why the hell not?’
As a leader, you have both the privilege and the burden to empower your staff, at all times, to be confident. Think back to the work you did to get a diverse team of interesting and creative thinkers and problem solvers, and imagine the heavy cost of shutting that down. Mind you, it is not your place to make them overly confident in their solutions — they may be proposing day old gas station sushi for the office party, after all — but you must absolutely and entirely create a foundation on which they can have confidence in their voices, to speak freely without judgment or fear of repercussions. It is only then that they will thrive, and you will too.