Poor leaders, or those with sensitive egos, often fall into that trap. Thirsting for approval they abandon their own otherwise good judgment in favor of a butt-covering consensus. They want to be popular more than they want to be right.
Wear the pants. You will be making some unpopular decisions. Get used to it.
Seek the counsel of others, those you respect. But in the end, you have to make the call and infinitely more important than anyone’s feelings, it needs to be the right call.
You lower the odds when you allow yourself to be distracted by anything other than getting it right.
I once went to New York City division of a huge corporation, to turn around the fortunes of a $40 million operation, spending $41. I made rock certain I had the full support of the owner of the larger corporation and the cooperation of the president of the NYC division.
Without their support I would have had no more influence than the friendly golf pro that lounges around the country club.
I told the president, “I don’t want to have the power to hire or fire anyone, because I am here for a limited period of time and you have to live with my decisions long term. I do want this: If I recommend a hire or fire, I want you to let me know within 24 hours whether you will support it.”
The troops, knowing my authority and the desire for change in the corporation, gave me little resistance and the turnaround was successful.
You don’t do turnarounds by committee. Yes, you should have a management team and others to advise you, but you must have the hammer.
In difficult times employees often feel more safe in a business dictatorship, in which the person at the throttle is confident and willing to be there, than in one in which they are not sure who will stand up and be counted at decision time.
The U.S. government has three branches, but that in large part is to protect its citizens against an abuse of power by the person in charge—the president.
In turbulent times you must have a leader. Title matters little. What matters is that you are the engineering the train and everyone knows it.
2. Know who your friends are, and more important, who your enemies are.
Remember the statement in “The Godfather”: Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer? The corollary during critical business times is to know who your allies are—people who will tell you the truth and are committed to the company’s success—and who are your critics.
Assume nothing. Find that out from those who are truly the closest to you. They will tell you. And you may be surprised at what you hear.
Listen to Your Advisors
In coaching, the critics may try to slay you politically, or at least dampen enthusiasm and drag back progress.
The coach has little power over those outsiders. In business, these people are on the inside and they work for you. You cannot let them undercut and undermine your efforts.
I could have saved a pile of dollars in some business ventures had I listened to my wife’s admonitions about Tyler. I liked Tyler. He boosted my ego and comforted me when I was upset. I liked him too much to look at him objectively to see that all the while he was defrauding me. Emotions are strange things and often have a blinding effect.
Sometimes you will have some superficially friendly and charming people who for some reason are not behind you. Maybe they resent being passed over for some opportunity, or feel they should be compensated better, or they just don’t like your style. You need to know who they are by engaging in some discreet but candid conversations with your known allies.
You often do not hear the assassin’s bullet. Key people may not necessarily want you to fail, but if they are not truly on the train they will not move with the requisite cooperative urgency necessary for success. Moreover, their critiquing nature affects others and slows their efforts. Sometimes the resistance is even more sinister.
Working a business turnaround in Chicago, I was disturbed by my conversation with Fran, the CFO. Unbeknownst to Bob, the less than robust owner, Fran was severely critical of his leadership. She was not his friend. Bob had taken over the business at the death of his father and Fran had convinced him that without her, he would be doomed.