A big part of leadership is making the tough decisions.  No secret there.  They pay you for it.  Everyone expects it of you.  You bear the responsibility for it.

However, there are a couple of interesting issues about making the tough decisions.  The decision you make, right or wrong, is often not what you will be judged on most harshly.  What people are often most critical of is (1) how timely was the decision, and (2) how, what and when you communicated about it.

For this post I want to focus on what you communicate.

If you fail to adequately communicate the reasons for decisions, employees will draw their own conclusions, and probably not favorable ones, and justify being resistant to your leadership.

A lot of leaders do not feel comfortable talking about the tough decisions they have had to make, such as laying off people.  They feel that employees will not understand, will draw the wrong conclusions, will be demotivated, and will leave the organization if you tell them the “why’s” behind a particular decision.

Instead, those leaders make the tough decisions and then “bury” them hoping people will just forget.  Over time, they do…forget the details.  What they do not forget, though, is the feeling of unfinished business.  It leaves behind questions, uncertainty, and doubt…and those feelings become the seeds of distrust and waning confidence.

While there are certainly times when leaders cannot discuss the details of decisions that have been made, there is a lot of room for improvement in this area, and a lot to be gained.

I think that leaders do not give employees enough credit for being able to process and handle difficult information.  They can handle more than you think…and you should explain more than you do.  It builds trust and confidence.  That trust and confidence will buy you the benefit of the doubt in those inevitable situations in which you cannot discuss details.  It also helps them understand more of the important issues at stake in your business and the complexities of managing them.

Try being a bit more open about difficult decisions you have had to make.  I think you will be surprised at how well they will understand it and handle it.  They may not agree, but they will be able to handle it.  Most important, they will respect you for having the confidence to explain difficult actions, and for respecting them enough to share that kind of information.