You Cannot Be Afraid of Your Team
Once you start making decisions based on how others will react, you are no longer in charge.
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I talk to a lot of CEOs who have an important decision to make, and after evaluating all the options the right choice is clear. But they don’t make the decision. They wait, they stall and find excuses to avoid the decision.
What is going on?
They are afraid of how their team will react. What if they hate it? What if they quit? That fear can be so strong that they delay, defer or sometimes make the wrong decision to avoid the reaction.
If you are afraid of your team, and making decisions from that place of fear, you are not in charge. You need to be at peace with making your team unhappy, and comfortable with making the right decision even if it’s unpopular. Otherwise, your team is running the company.
Maybe they will dislike your decision. Maybe they will quit. But maybe they would quit anyway. You cannot control other people, and you certainly can’t control how they react. What you can do is make the best decision and handle the repercussions.
I don’t know any CEO that doesn’t have a recurring nightmare that all of their employees quit at once, and they show up at work to a ghost town. While it’s an irrational fear, that fear is always there in the back of your mind. Some days it might be quiet and other days it might get loud. We just can’t let it make decisions for us.
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I am not suggesting you ignore your team when making decisions. Your team is the most important resource you have, so you should absolutely get their input on decisions whenever you can. Their counsel is often worth a thousand advisors, since they work with the business everyday and see things you might not.
But your team’s input ends with advice. Companies are not democracies for a reason, unpopular decisions are often necessary. For example, as much as we all dislike them, sometimes layoffs are the right decision. No one would vote for a layoff, but as a leader you sometimes need to make that decision.
If you have built trust with your team, that trust will retain your team’s respect even if they disagree with your decisions. In some ways, making hard and unpopular decisions is the truest test of that trust.
No one has sympathy for business leaders, especially CEOs, nor should they. It’s a hard job, but it’s richly rewarded if you do well. You just have to recognize that if you are in that job, not everyone will be happy with what you do. Some of them will dislike you, and others might even hate you.
You can’t control how others react, you just have to accept it’s part of the job.
For more on Decision Making, see: