Making the Hard Decision is Easier Than You Think

I’m not sure what it is, but it seems like leaders have a hard time making hard decisions. Nothing is more frustrating than a leader or other kind of decision maker who just won’t make a decision because it’s too hard. Specifically, I want to discuss people decisions – hiring and firing.

  1. Hiring – I’ve heard that it’s best to hire slow. I agree with this statement, much to chagrin of those who are struggling finding work. The hiring process should be long. If you’re making the decision to hire someone, you really want to get to know them and make sure it’s the right choice for your company. If you’re the one getting hired, you want to make sure that the company is a right fit for you and your values. Getting to know someone or something takes time, so take your time with it.
  2. Firing (or leaving) – This is the hard part I was talking about. Sometimes it can be really easy to hire someone and then go through the honeymoon phase of a new employee or new environment, but what happens when that goes south? Just like it’s best to hire slow, it’s best to fire quickly. There are a couple reasons for this. For one, that person who seems like they’re really not all in? they’re not all in. This can deeply impact productivity and morale. Second, it’s costing you money. This is obvious. Third, you’re not doing anyone any favors. If you’re the employer, you can be responsible for causing the person to have to search for a job that better suits them; if you’re the employee, you could be making room for your replacement.

Either way, my challenge to you is to make that hard decision – people decision or otherwise.

How are you with decision making? Is it something that comes naturally? Do you feel that sometimes you can’t make a decision because of fear of the outcome?


4 Reasons to Have Open Communication

Poor communication is a pet peeve of mine. I remember a time when I was working with the statistics for my team, and I asked my boss if I should share the numbers with the team as a whole. He told me that since the numbers weren’t good, we shouldn’t share the numbers. I disagree whole heartedly. When the numbers are bad is probably the best time to share them. Granted, this is the boss that no one went to with their problems or challenges.

4 reasons to have open communication:

  1. It builds trust – I harp on trust a lot, but without trust, no relationship can function. If you can tell me the bad when it’s bad, I can trust you to tell me the good when it’s good.
  2. It builds camaraderie – Especially in bad times, having a common cause to rally behind will always create deep relationships within your team. A unified team is unstoppable.
  3. It builds openness – Just like how no one would go to my former boss about their problems or challenges for fear of having them swept under the rug, if you hide bad times behind sunshine, no one will go to you because they cannot reasonably expect you to help them resolve the problems they’re facing. A team with closed, secretive communication is a dead team.
  4. It builds morale – People can sense when something is wrong. It’s a rare breed of people who are so empathically defunct that they can’t sense impending doom. When people feel something is wrong, it saps away at their morale. I believe people would rather know something is wrong and work on solutions than not know their enemy.

What is the state of your team’s communication? Is there any area you can improve on in your communication?

Leaders Are Proactive

The above quote speaks of success, and I want to take a second to assert a disclaimer here. Success is relative. Success is measured by what you set. I don’t think there’s a universal rule that tells us what success is, and my idea of success is likely different than your idea of success. With that to say, you may take this post in the context of what you define as success.

I believe strongly in proactivity. I, and I think most people honestly, hate being reactive. Reactivity is when you are in a constant state of only reacting to situations. You only move if something comes up. Proactivity, on the other hand, is meeting challenges and making progress before anything even comes up. Proactivity focuses mostly on strategic planning and growth; it’s all about strategy at the proactive level.

You can’t be purely proactive, but I believe you can be purely reactive. There’s nothing more frustrating (to me) than a purely reactive leader. You know the one. Everything is urgent and time sensitive (“it needs to be done now, now, now!”), but nothing is important. Because your leader is reactive, you’re stuck in reactivity as well trying to address problems and put out small nuisance fires before they spread. This is no way to operate.

Healthy leadership is being proactive. Recognizing potential problems and incorporating them into your strategic plans. You can’t foresee everything (hence why one cannot be purely proactive), but you can prepare for a wide variety of things. As a proactive person, you spend most of your time doing important things that are not necessarily urgent, which gives you plenty of margin to handle issues as they come along.

It’s not easy switching to proactivity. You still have a ton of small fires that you need to put out on a daily basis, but you can start taking baby steps. This will add a little bit of work to your schedule, but once the transition to proactivity is complete, you will find you have more productive time.

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Leaders Trust

I recently read the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling – I know I’m a decade late. One of my least favorite characters was Dolores Umbridge, who appeared in The Order of the Phoenix. The reason I hated her so much was because of her lack of trust for anyone (for my fellow book nerds, you can throw Fudge into that category as well). Despite previous faithfulness and the gained trust from others, she trusted nobody (not even Snape, who had “helped” her previously), which created a hostile environment in the castle until she was forcibly removed.

That’s fiction, but how true it is in the real world. Once I read about Umbridge in the series, I immediately tied her to one of my previous bosses. They trusted no one, personally monitored people’s computers, issued decrees (get it? Educational Decrees? No…?) that disallowed certain personal freedoms in the workplace, and overall destroyed the environment of trust in the organization. This was done in the name of results (the parallel is too real for me), but there was no change in results, just morale. The lack of trust, just as it did in Hogwarts castle, drastically lowered the morale, which in turn destroyed productivity (more in my blog about Fear).

I know this post seems rather fun and a little childish, but the truth of it remains: “Trust is the glue of life.” If we cannot trust our leaders and our leaders cannot trust us, then the organization will fall apart. In my real world example, trust left the department when the leader of the department decided to treat a room of adults as children who needed constant monitoring.

There’s another side to the story, however. Trust is important, but it must be built. It only makes sense that a new employee would be micromanaged to some extent as they learned the job and the culture of the workplace. As a new employee learns the ropes and earns trust, they should be given more freedom according to their comfort level, which should be compared to the leader’s comfort level for them. The way this gets unhealthy is when you try to micromanage a professional or give complete freedom to a novice. In short, it’s unhealthy to have too much trust in a novice, but it is also unhealthy to not have enough trust of a professional.

I encourage you to build trust up in your organization, this will help remove fear and squash the frustration of you and those you lead.

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Leaders Don’t Spread Fear

As I was researching this topic, I found a ton of mixed reviews. Some felt that fear is the only way to lead (Machiavelli); some felt that fear is unhealthy in all cases; and others felt that fear can be healthy as long as it’s managed and addressed as it appears. I, personally, take the latter of the three positions. The old adage says, “Everything is good in moderation.”

Now, I feel I need to break this down into two categories: fear of the future and fear of an individual. I believe fear of the future can be healthy, but can also be unhealthy, but fear of an individual is never healthy.

  1. Fear of the future at its healthiest is good. Change is a scary thing, and as long as we’re not consumed by this fear, we can remain as functional human beings navigating our ever changing world. Nothing in this world is guaranteed, but as long as we can minimize the fear we feel for something that hasn’t even come to pass yet, we can create healthy change and even foresee potential issues. At it’s unhealthiest is typically when the future rests in the hands of an individual. Questions like, “Will they fire me?” or “I’ve heard all these rumors of meetings about results, am I next?” When this happens, people naturally become less productive because they’re more focused on keeping their job than doing their job.

For example, I worked at an organization that was heavily sales focused. A lot of things were changing and a lot of people were being demoted, shifting around, or leaving. My coworkers and I would take our time (that we’re being paid for to be productive) having conversations about our fears and our speculations of what’s going to happen to us in the future. Will we be able to keep our jobs or are we going to experience the same fate as our peers? With this fear and the lack of anything being communicated to us other than people being upset with performance overall, we couldn’t focus on our work, talking to prospects, or closing on those prospects.

  1. Fear of an individual, in my opinion, is never healthy. Machiavelli once said that if you can’t be feared and loved, then it’s better to be feared rather than loved. This must be true for dictators. If the people don’t love you, then for you to remain in power, you must be feared. I don’t believe this is healthy leadership, and it’s far from a servant’s model. I’m sure we can all reflect on numerous times that we feared a leader of ours rather than love them. Almost always, it’s not a pleasant experience.

It is our jobs as leaders to help minimize the crippling power of fear. It’s natural for people to view other people in authority as being worthy of fear, but we must nip those notions in the bud, create a feeling of security, and give those we lead a safe space in which to work.

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