As leaders, we all have moments when decisions must be made that cannot be fully explained to the organization. Sometimes even your team has to be kept in the dark as to the full truth. Some of these moments include:
- Firing someone for criminal acts at work
- Reducing your team by 10%, including the two nicest and most liked people in the department
- Asking an under-performing and extremely good person to resign in 45 days
- Negotiating a sale of the company
- Reassigning a leader due to allegations for certain behavior
- Firing an executive for performance issues
I remember a conversation with a leader about the impact of one of these big decisions, on both his people and the trust within his team. He had just let someone go and nobody could know the truth. It was immediate, and it was explained by a vague email. I shared with him a perspective I learned in watching trust shifts after these BIG events: in my experience, these events did not alter the trust level because it was the thousand decisions we had made up to the event that made forgiveness easier. Trust was kind of like a bank account. If the deposits had been made along the way, then the effects of the one big withdrawal were minimal.
Leaders make these little deposits when they:
- Tell people the real business numbers when sales records are hit and missed
- Publicly apologize for a bad decision that made life harder
- Show up at potlucks
- Go to funerals, weddings, and other big events in people’s lives
- Send a note after seeing someone’s child recognized in the paper
- Ask questions about family – and remember their names
- Have monthly breakfasts with people where any question is answered
- Answer emails from employees that send questions
- Embrace policies that make a positive impact on the lives of people
The good news? Big events don’t happen that often. The better news? They will pass faster if you spend the time between them being open and honest with your people, and practicing some of the habits mentioned above.
Just remember – focus each day on telling and hearing the TRUth and building/giving TRUst.
For EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) leaders, at your next clarity break tally all the ‘deposits’ you made this week and pick one thing you can do tomorrow to make a deposit.
Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often.