5 Ways We Kill Rookie Smarts on our Teams

Published April 25, 2016

Tim Parsons, executive pastor at GLS Host Site in Lafayette, Indiana, describes how leaders can overcome some of the challenges that come when we add rookies to our teams. 

As a leader, I’m as guilty as the next. I boldly claim that I want fresh ideas, new energy and an injection of rookies. And, deep down, I really do. But, I regularly find that I get frustrated when I have rookies on my team.

The energy it takes to train them to do it my way is exhausting. The time I have to invest in fitting them into my mold is more than I have. And, filtering through all of their “new” ideas can be such a waste of time.

See what I’m doing there?

The truth is, as Liz Wiseman said, rookies bring value to our teams and we need more of them. Whether it’s hiring brand new people or encouraging our current, experienced team members to have a rookie mindset, there’s value that “Rookie Smarts” adds to any team. Because “learning beats knowing” every time.

As much as we can all agree that we need it, we don’t do as good a job at inviting and encouraging it as we should. In fact, I would say that there are 5 ways I’ve experienced where we are killing the rookie spirit and limiting the entrepreneurial potential of our teams.

  1. Require a lot of meetings

Meetings tend to be places where experienced people push their own agendas and rookies are often lost in the shuffle. Not to mention that meetings regularly do not allow time for brainstorming or an invitation to come up with new ideas.  Too many meetings can stifle progress and discourage rookies.

  1. Criticize ideas

Rookies need space not only to throw out new ideas, but also to try them out.  Add to that the fact that ideas come from a place that make them personal – so criticism of an idea can come across as a personal criticism. Rookies who are constantly being criticized will stop trying and will quickly become disillusioned.  Criticism must always be tempered with encouragement and should be given in the right way, at the right time and at the right place.

  1. Create too many rules

One of the reasons rookies are so valuable to a team is the fact that they bring fresh ideas. The antithesis of fresh ideas is strict rules about how we do what we do. In other words, an organization’s rules can inadvertently prevent the free flow of new, creative ideas. And, what happens to rookies is that any new idea they might suggest is negated from the beginning.

  1. Resist change

Inevitably, when you involve rookies or a rookie mindset on your team, you will be faced with the decision to change or stay the same. Staying the same always seems safer, but change will often bring with it new plateaus for your organization. When the leadership of an organization resists change, it communicates to rookies that their ideas either aren’t welcome or aren’t good enough to trump past successes.

  1. Reprimand failure

We all fail, but rookies will probably fail more than those of us with more experience. The rookie mindset is based on the fact that all new ideas include some level of risk – and when an organization has a culture of reprimanding failure, it makes it unsafe to operate. When failure isn’t allowed or when failure is punished, it forces everyone to find a safe place where they operate within the status quo.

At the end of the day, as with all philosophies of organizational leadership, there is a balance to be found – here, it is between experience and rookies. To be a “rookie smart” organization, it is vitally important that you avoid these five common reactions to a rookie mindset. When you’re focused on nurturing rookies, you’ll be surprised at how your organization will grow and thrive.

About the Author(s)
Tim Parsons serves as lead pastor at The Journey Church outside Indianapolis, a host site for the GLS. His passion is to help people lead better—at work and at home.

Tim Parsons

Lead Pastor

The Journey Church (Indianapolis, IN)

Tim Parsons serves as lead pastor at The Journey Church outside Indianapolis. With a passion to help people lead better at work and at home, his church has been a longtime partner with us as a Premier Host for The Global Leadership Summit. He is the co-author of the new devotional for men, Equipping the Warrior and author of the soon to be released 40-day devotional on spiritual health, The Journey. You can  connect with Tim at timparsons.me.