HOW TO COMMUNICATE UNPOPULAR DECISIONS
Sometimes you have to implement unpopular decisions that you didn't make, that you don't like, that you don't fully understand and that you don't agree with. It's part of the job.
The way you handle this situation says a lot about you as a leader. If you do it right, your people are going to trust you and respect you more. If you do it wrong, you risk losing your leadership clout.
Here's what you don't do -
- Don't show frustration. It's an easy way to empathize, but it puts you on the same level as your employees, and you don't want to give away your leadership clout.
- Don't complain. It's a tempting way to vent but it positions you as a victim and nobody wants to follow a victim!
- Don't assign blame. It's an easy way to take the heat off yourself, but it makes your job harder because it gives people a reason to resist you down the road.
Here's what you should do -
- Let your people vent. When teams are bitching together, they're bonding together. But don't join in! Just listen and acknowledge their concerns.
- But then your people need to hear what you’re thinking. Always support the decision maker. You can be honest. You can disagree with the decision and still support the decision maker and the decision-making process.
- Encourage your people to assume positive intent, and remind them that unpopular decisions often age well. Only time will tell!
- Focus on what you know, and don't fret about the things you don't know. Avoid making assumptions because they're often wrong and lead to needless worry.
- The group has shared their concerns. Now’s the time to focus them on “baby steps”. What are the first few things that the group can do now, to begin implementing (or at least preparing to implement) the decision.
- Remember, you’re not seeking their approval, you’re seeking the commitment to move forward.
- Keep the lines of communication open, fill in the blanks when you can, and stay positive. Your people are going to take their emotional cues from you.
You can acknowledge that the decision is unpopular, that the information is incomplete and that the change is going to be hard. But if people see you rise to the occasion, they will too.