It is important for library leaders to be supportive of the ideas and the work of our staff. We want to work among innovative and enthusiastic people, and we want to be a part of a thriving organization.
Being supportive is not the same as accepting an idea outright. New professionals, especially, don’t have the experience or the history to always think of everything. When they bring an idea to their manager, the manager should definitely be supportive, but is not obligated to accept the idea at face value. It is reasonable – even helpful – to ask questions about the idea. “How will this impact the staff?” and “How much will it cost upfront, and continuing?” and “How much time will you need to commit to this project?” are all things a manager needs to know before green-lighting a new idea.
I’ll go so far as to suggest that asking these questions IS being supportive, as long as they are asked with an open mind. Hear the employee out! Give them a chance to answer the questions. Consider their first try as a “rough draft” and encourage them to keep working on it. They may need to answer some hard questions, like “What are you willing to give up in order to have time/money/staff to do this?” The worst thing you as manager could do is give the go-ahead and then watch as the employee fails. You’re a leader, and your job is to lead. Lead your employees to success!
Having an open mind really is the most important thing. The employee might be on to something big! They will be more likely to suggest ideas at all if they know their ideas are appreciated. I can’t imagine working in a place where your ideas are always shot down and you can’t even get someone to listen. Some things work out and some don’t, but no one gets anywhere without trying. When you do ask questions about the idea, be kind. Be inquisitive and actually care about the idea and the answers to your questions.
Be supportive by encouraging new ideas and conversations. Give your employees the confidence to make suggestions and try things out. Remember: being supportive means leading people to success…not just saying yes and hoping for the best.