One of the most challenging parts of being in a leadership position is having to make decisions that are necessary, but unpopular. These decisions can temporarily alienate you from your team, turn friends into enemies and just add friction to your relationships. How do you strike an even balance between keeping people happy (satisfied, challenged, engaged, etc.) and moving the organization forward?
One of the first things you need to decide when you step up to engage your leadership is that you are ok with not always being liked. This doesn’t mean you upset people or treat others poorly intentionally. It means forward movement involves change. Change is feared, battled against and unpopular. Yet, as the leader, your job is to guide this change and because of your job description, you are not always going to be the most popular person in the office, school or construction site.
“To be able to lead others, a man must be willing to go forward alone.” Harry S. Truman
Secondly, before you make a decision that you know is going to be widely unpopular, make certain you foster a few key relationships. Have a sit down with the team members who many people trust and respect and discuss the pros and cons of your decision. Your job here is diplomacy – doing your best to communicate clearly and simply the benefits of your move for everyone involved. You should also sit down with your most vocal opponent and just listen. Make them feel like they have your ear.
We have all heard stories of people being fired by text message or divorced via court documents. These stories serve as a reminder that a message’s medium is almost as important as the message itself. Zig Ziglar, the grandfather of motivational speakers, announced a major decision for his company via a company-wide email. He later apologized. Not for the message, but for how it was given. It is important to deliver the message as personally as possible. This is not the easiest path, but it is the most leaderly.
Finally, when you find yourself in conversation with your team about their viewpoint, be as cordial, caring and empathetic as possible. The ability to gracefully agree to disagree will go a long way. However, be confident and resolute when stating your viewpoint and the reasons why you made the decision you did.
Leaders have to deliver bad news or unwelcomed news because their job one is to deliver results. However, the best leaders take strides to protect and secure relationships because they are just as important as the results.