The Business Coach with Laura Murphy: “They’re lacking ideas...”

Question: My Director of Operations has come to me bewildered that his teams don’t come to him with ideas even though he regularly asks for them. Why don’t they? Mike.

Answer: This needs to be considered from three perspectives: the organisation, the Ops Director and staff. From an organisational perspective does it have a culture of actively seeking and welcoming ideas? The company’s culture is set by the Board so you have a strong role to play here. It means more than just having a suggestions box in reception or the staff canteen. Are there recognised structures or processes in place at all levels which demonstrate that the company listens, acts upon (or explains why it doesn’t act upon) and rewards any suggestions?

Looking at the Ops Director, does his behaviour encourage ideas? I spent some time with one Director who professed an open door policy and sincerely believed in it. On observation though whenever there was a meeting he told people where to sit, when an alterative view was aired he ignored the comment or dismissed it. His words were not supported by his actions. As he’s already approached you for advice he should be amenable to spending some time with you or a neutral observer to uncover behaviour patterns with him and his teams.

Now let’s look at the staff. Some will always have ideas and if the conditions are right, as above, they will happily submit them. For others it can be a struggle to be creative yet handled properly the whole workforce can be energised so that the company becomes a creative hub. That will take more time, commitment and external support.


Laura Murphy is the founder of mtc2 ltd, a management consultancy, training and coaching company. Laura is an organisation development specialist and business coach. If you have a problem then contact her at

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Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.