Contributed by Gino Wickman, a recent EO 360 podcast guest and the author of Traction and The EOS Life, as well as the creator of EOS (the Entrepreneurial Operating System), which more than 140,000 entrepreneurs use to run their companies. He also created The 10 Disciplines for Managing and Maximizing Your Energy. His other recent posts for EO include 7 Signs of a Weak Leadership Team and 10 Steps to Living Your Optimal Life.
In the last seven days, I’ve had two different sessions involving the issue of a manager blaming some other force for the bad news that they had to deliver to their direct reports.
I was reminded of the countless times I’ve seen this management mistake in over 2,000 full-day sessions with leadership teams.
This is the sign of a weak manager or leader.
The dialogue with the direct report goes something like this:
- “The leadership team decided …”
- “My boss wants me to tell you …”
- “I’m sorry to tell you this, but EOS teaches that we should …”
As John Ortberg says, “Leadership is the art of disappointing people at a rate they can stand.”
In these two recent sessions in which I observed this, in the first situation, the manager blamed the leadership team for the bad news they had to deliver to their direct reports, and, in the second situation, the manager blamed EOS (the Entrepreneurial Operating System) for the bad news that they needed to deliver to their direct reports.
Another common situation is where the manager blames someone else for having to fire their direct report.
When a manager blames others for the tough decisions or news that they have to deliver to their direct report(s), they give their power away, they lose the respect of their people, and it creates resentment, lack of trust and organizational dysfunction.
You have to learn to take the bullet. Your verbiage must be “I support this decision,” “This is my decision,” “I agree with this decision,” or “I believe it’s the right thing to do.” If you take the bullet, you will gain your people’s trust and respect, and they will absorb the bad news faster. There’s nowhere else for them to look to blame. You will become a stronger leader.
When you have to fire someone because your leadership team enlightens or convinces you of something you’re not seeing, you must make it your decision.
When I see a leadership team member making this mistake, they tend to be a really nice person who doesn’t like conflict. They don’t want to hurt their direct report. It’s totally understandable. However, for the greater good of the company, the news must be delivered. The good news is that, as a nice person, you’ll do it with compassion. The painful truth is that by not sharing the news and taking total responsibility, you’re being selfish. You’re thinking of yourself. It’s not fair to the company, to your team, to that person or yourself.
Even if you had a fierce two-hour debate about a big strategic organization-wide change with your leadership team, and you didn’t agree with the decision, you must disagree and commit with your leadership team. When you deliver the message, your verbiage must be “Here’s what we decided as a leadership team.” That is how healthy leaders do it.
On a side note, if you find yourself disagreeing with your leadership team quite often, you may be in the wrong company. But that’s a whole other article.
Take a few minutes and think about tough news you’ve had to deliver to your direct reports in the past. Have you taken total responsibility? Or have you given your power away?
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