CXO

Are you a stick-in-the-mud boss?

A recent survey says that bosses think they provide more of an innovative culture than they really do.

Are you the IT equivalent of Jack Friday? Do you just want to get the job done and forget all those fancy-shmancy ideas your team members are always lobbing at you? You might not think so, but that might be the way your employees see you.

DDI just completed a survey with more than 500 employees (with no direct reports) and more than 500 leaders that look at how leaders are promoting innovation (and how they aren't), what really happened to great ideas, and the perception gaps between employees and leaders in leaders' behaviors.

The long and short of it? The boss is an innovation killer. The survey paints a picture of leaders who are overconfident in their skills at promoting innovation. Less than half of employees think their boss is open to unique ideas and opinions, and one in three say their ideas will be killed by organizational bureaucracy.

The gap between leader perspective and that of employee's opinion of their leaders was marked. In areas where the leaders thought they were successfully innovative, like challenging current viewpoints, there was a 29 percent gap in perspective.

In behaviors like an openness to unique ideas and opinions? A 35 percent gap. Guiding employees to pursue ideas autonomously (32 percent).

The greatest gap between where leaders thought they were successful in and where employees agreed was the leader's willingness to challenge current perspectives (the gap 29% in challenging current perspectives). The research also showed that leaders are lacking in behaviors including an openness to unique ideas and opinions (35% gap), championing the merits of employee-generated ideas to senior management (33%), and guiding employees to pursue ideas autonomously (32% gap).

In general, leaders were confident in their skills across the board, but "employees felt there wasn't really room to challenge the status quo," according to Rich Wellins, Senior Vice President of DDI.

In my opinion, there could be several reasons for this. One, most leaders are reluctant to innovate because of their personalities but also because there is just too much to do. They'll ask for ideas, but when it comes time to pay the piper, they're either preoccupied or just don't want to do what they have to do to help make the idea happen.

However, you have to also consider that some employee ideas suck. And sometimes the employee doesn't have the benefit of knowing certain business reasons and emerging issues that would preclude an idea from working. (When you ask leaders, 38% feel that the greatest barrier to innovation is their employees don't have enough information about the business to offer ideas of value.) So when a leader doesn't follow through on an idea due to one of those reasons but doesn't tell the employee why, the employee is bound to feel bitter and respond negatively to, for example, a survey about innovation.

If you're interested in looking at the survey, here's the link.

So let's hear from the IT leaders out there. Do you consider yourself innovative?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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