How to Focus Employees Who Are Too Helpful With Their Ideas

Managers must find ways to encourage input while also insisting employees get their work done.

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By John Boitnott


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurs are constantly searching for effective ways to grow their business. Your team can be a great source of ideas and inspiration, especially as they get to know your clients and your goals for your organization.

However, your openness to ideas from your staff can go too far sometimes. When an employee is constantly showing up in your office or derailing meetings with great ideas (or even bad ones), you'll eventually grow frustrated, especially if that employee isn't getting his or her work done. Here are a few tips for reigning in your idea makers to keep your team on track.

1. Read between the lines.

Often when someone is consistently presenting you with helpful ideas, more is going on behind the scenes than you may realize initially. The employee's eagerness may be simply a desire to be a more integral part of your business. The solution to the issue may not be to gather ideas and actually use them, but to find more productive ways for the employee to contribute. Maybe inviting the worker to help create your business plan or refine your mission statement will benefit both of you.

Related: 7 Ways to Manage Your Most Motivated and Talented Employees

2. Provide an outlet.

An employee full of ideas may simply need a creative outlet. If you want to curtail interruptions, it might be best to offer a chance to voice those ideas on a regular basis. You could invite the employee to make note of them and bring them to you at a designated meeting time each week. Or you could set up a suggestion box inviting employees to write down ideas and drop them in at any time. If you'd prefer, you could alternatively set a policy that your employees should email all ideas to you. Once you have an outlet in place, you can then direct employees to that outlet whenever they bring ideas to you.

3. Ideas equal assignments.

Many businesses have more to do each day than could possibly ever get done. For that reason, whenever a person brings an idea to a business owner, it can easily be dismissed as something that could never be done due to lack of time. Instead of tossing it aside, however, invite the employee to take each suggested project on himself once his other work is completed. "That's a great idea, but how will you work it into your busy schedule?" sends the clear message that you don't have time to handle the extra work any more than that employee does.

Related: What You Can Learn From Hollywood on Hiring and Managing Employees

4. Set and enforce ground rules.

However you decide to handle your idea makers, you should have rules in place to prevent your workers from disrupting meetings or interrupting your work on a regular basis. Once you have policies in place, you'll be able to take action to enforce those policies. If an employee's work is being neglected, this is a separate issue and can be disciplined separately. Start by having a talk with the employee where you mention the issue and refocus the employee on his own assignments. If this effort is unsuccessful, unfortunately you may need to discipline the worker in order to make sure you're receiving the work you're paying the employee to do.

Related: 6 Best Practices for Managing Unhappy Employees

Ideas are important to any business. However, when an employee pushes those ideas in a disruptive manner, a supervisor may have to eventually take action. This is especially true if the employee is foregoing the work he was hired to do in favor of showing up in your office several times each day to talk. Managers must find ways to encourage input while also insisting employees get their work done each day. In doing so, they'll keep morale high throughout the office.

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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