Communicating Popular—and Unpopular—Decisions

I listened to a friend criticize a founder’s decision on an important issue. The founder originally told his staff they would do X. A few weeks later, he changed his mind and decided to do Y. I was curious why he changed his mind, so I asked. In short, the data changed. His initial decision was based on a projection that had materially changed since then. If he’d stayed the course, the result could have been serious challenges for his company in the future. The initial decision was well communicated and well received. But when the decision was reversed, there was no official communication; people heard about it through the grapevine.

Hard decisions must be made when you’re leading others. There’s no way around them. Making difficult or unpopular decisions isn’t what gets leaders in trouble; it’s the way they’re communicated—or not—that can land leaders in hot water. Some leaders avoid delivering unpopular news for fear of upsetting their teams. What they don’t realize is that people are often OK with whatever happens if they know why it’s happening. And people don’t like uncertainty. They want to hear from their leader when there’s important news that could affect them.

If you’re a founder, there’s nothing wrong with changing your mind or making unpopular decisions. It comes with the territory. But be aware that how you communicate your decisions can have a lasting impact on your team’s confidence in you as a leader.