How to Lead When You Hate the Order You're Carrying Out

How to Lead When You Hate the Order You’re Carrying Out

You've got your orders from the top. Changes have to be made and for many they won't be good. In fact, you are not sure yourself that they are the best thing for the company or your team. However, you have been tasked with making things work and with explaining everything to your employees.

The question then is how do you enforce an ill-timed layoff, a cutback on hours, or a dubious business decision, and still maintain your sanity and credibility?

Image is Everything

It's times like these that you must make an image of strength work for you. Whether you're weak or stoic in carrying the order out, it's got to get done, so the pragmatic choice is to be strong.

While your people may resent you as they struggle with what's happening, you'll gain their long-term respect by gently shutting down any arguments before they begin. You'll want to be on guard against people trying to bargain their way out of the inevitable; have a speech prepared, one that leaves little room for follow-up.

Stay Strong

The next hurdle is to defeat the temptation to divorce yourself from those whose ideas you're enforcing that you remain likable. Ineffectual leaders will say, "Look, this was not my idea and I don't like it, but…”

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Again, this makes you seem weak, a 'puppet 'of higher powers. Your best bet is to recite the facts of the situation as if they can't be traced to any one person, entity or philosophy.

Instead of saying "They've made the decision,” try "A decision was made.” Instead of "I feel bad, and I'm sorry” lean on "This is unfortunate, and no one is happy.” This way, you're not blaming anyone while subtly telegraphing to others that your personal course of action may have been very different.

Dealing With Your Conscience

Finally, there's your conscience to deal with. Remind yourself that it's up to everyone who works for your organization to accept the good faith deal they struck on their first day: To survive and thrive, the company agreed to pay for the efforts of its staff and to make the decisions it must to keep going. Your compliance in doing what needs to be done is part of what makes the company go on so that more people can benefit in the end.

What you can do as a team leader is try to 'rally the troops' as best you can. Try to work together to identify a positive outcome. What happens after the breaking of bad news can often be more important than the conversation itself, and while the news is something you can't control, this is something you can.

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