TrustBUSTER™ #6 – Criticize decisions AFTER the team made them – How to handle the 3 most common situations

by Dec 9, 2010Insights, Leadership, Performance Management, Self awareness

TrustBUSTER™ #6 – Criticizes decisions AFTER the team has discussed them and the decision has been made

I still remember the situation vividly.  Early in my career I went to a meeting, listened to the discussion, and heard the decision.  I went back to my desk and did some more analysis(things I should have done before the meeting), realized that I had a different opinion, and went back to the leader with my concerns.  He was visibly frustrated and let me know that we had already discussed it.  It was a lesson in being present for a discussion vs being engaged in a discussion.  I had been there, but not contributing like I should.

Later in my career I heard a different story from a senior executive.  He shared a decision that had been made by his peer that he did not agree with.  His comment was “It was his decision so I will give him some rope.  He will run into problems eventually, then we can discuss bailing him out.”  His strategy was to let his peer fail (without giving him the right kind of help) so that his plan would ultimately prevail.

In both cases it was not a lack of discussion, but a lack of open and honest dialogue by all the parties involved.  The result, people leaving the table with individual agendas that trumped the team agenda.  Nothing erodes trust faster than failure to listen, failure to share opinions, and failure to support decisions made by your team.  Here are the three standard situations you will see happen on a team, what the issue is, and what the leader should do to ensure the person stops doing this TrustBUSTER™.

  1. Openly criticizing people/decisions after the fact = criticizing = character issue = Action:  Direct warning (job loss)
  2. Questioning decisions after the fact = criticizing = character or self-confidence issue = Action: Need more info . . .
  3. Bringing more(new) data after a bad decision = criticizing = takes guts = Action: Thank them for finding the information, then explore – Why did we not have this information?

This is one of those behaviors that highlights something Stephen M.R. Covey shares in his book The Speed of Trust, which is “We judge others based on their actions and we judge ourselves based on our intent.”  This is an especially critical message for the kind but timid person on your team that does not speak up.  Their actions create trust issues with their teammates.

The key question for a leader when this happens – How can I lead differently so this TrustBUSTER™ never becomes an issue?  The key action is to deal with it quickly and directly because it will grow like cancer in your team.  Secondly, look also at your meetings and evaluate if you are creating time for key debates to happen or if decisions are just being unilaterally made and not discussed.  Finally, if you see this happening between two departments in your organization, examine the relationship of the leaders of those groups.  Likely the departments are mirroring the leaders.  In any case, address it directly and be willing to change the leaders if it does not stop.

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