As I’m sure you would agree, anyone in a leadership position has a tough job. They have expectations to meet, metrics to measure, goals to achieve, deadlines to hit, and maybe the most difficult but most important, a team of individuals to engage in a common goal.
Think about the people in your work environment. I’m doubtful anyone would say they are all robots who think and act exactly the same. So you can imagine the challenge a manager faces in creating and maintaining a culture where their team of employees are all aligned and engaged.
I was just shy of twenty eight when I was promoted to a management position with a corporation I had been working with for three years. It was a huge step for my career but I also knew it would be the biggest challenge I had ever taken on. It was that and then some. I was teamed with a very diverse group of salespeople who thankfully embraced me and the leadership transition with positive attitudes and open minds. But when more changes in the organization were made, one member of my team was not on board.
Furthermore, she started engaging her teammates in gossip and rumors about the adjustments our department was facing. As a result, her teammates started to feel uncertain and disengaged. When I became aware of the issue, I quickly realized two things:
- The sales rep did not have all of the facts and that was on me – I needed to be clear and upfront with my team about the changes going on in the company and how they might be effected. It was my job to lead them through the transition rather than just expecting them to “get it” and be on board.
- In addition to the facts, I needed to make sure this person understood how her behavior and negativity were effecting her teammates.
Here is how I recovered – first, I pulled my team together to clear the air and allow them to ask their questions in our small group setting, getting answers and feedback from me rather than from the cafeteria gossip. This enabled them to be aligned on the facts, objectives and goals and created buy-in for the changes they could now prepare for.
Secondly, I pulled the gossiper aside and asked her why she didn’t come to me first before spreading rumors. Her answer may not have been what I wanted to hear but it was the reality check I needed. She said, “I didn’t think you wanted to tell us but I heard it from someone else and thought everyone should know.” Ouch. While I don’t agree with her approach, I learned the first of many, many valuable lessons in leadership: visibility and honesty are keys to building trust and alignment with your team. If employees don’t understand the facts and goals or have the answers, they’ll make them up on their own.
Change in any organization, good or bad, is often difficult to communicate but your team will look to you to lead them through it. Managing the experience they are delivering both internally and externally is how you manage your brand and it starts at the top. Even if difficult conversations with your team may not be the easiest task on your very long to do list, it will be the most meaningful one when it builds trust and accountability in you as a leader.