Gary Cole, left, as Bill Lumbergh and Ron Livingston as Peter Gibbons in Office Space.
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
By Vip Sandhir
May 30, 2016

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “How do you make tough business decisions?” is written by Vip Sandhir, founder and CEO of HighGround.

All company leaders will face major business decisions throughout their time as the heads of their organizations. Difficult decisions related to activities such as M&A, leadership changes, restructuring, and massive growth plans will directly impact the company’s employees.

If you’ve already established trust with your workforce, you can significantly minimize potential negative impacts and be more assured your employees will buy in to your decisions, even if they don’t necessarily agree with them. But earning their faith takes time. As a leader, you are trusted only to the degree that people believe in your ability, consistency, integrity, and commitment to deliver. The good news is that you can earn confidence over time by relying on a few strategies:

Instill trust through an employee engagement program
By encouraging consistent feedback and establishing an honest environment, employees will trust the direction and information you give them. Create a highly engaged culture by prioritizing real-time recognition, continuous feedback, and ongoing goal-setting.

See also: Doing This Will Help You Make Better Business Decisions

  • Change and react with meaningful conversations. You’ve likely had to adjust your business plan in the middle of the year. Real-time, continuous communication helps you keep employees in the loop and adjust to expectations as your organization’s needs change.
  • Giving timely feedback is the most effective way to communicate expectations. Not only that, but saving your big kudos until the end of the year isn’t just ineffective—it is makes it more difficult to deliver.
  • Ongoing goal-setting can help people understand where their contributions fit within the organization and where they need to aim. Better yet, these can be transparent across the organization so everyone is held accountable for the outcomes and behaviors that drive your business and cultural success.

 

Gather and measure sentiment during times of change
Part of the difficulty in making tough business decisions is leaders don’t want to surprise or disappoint employees. Think about the last time you made a major company-wide announcement. Did you know if employees were happy? Were they shocked? Or even worse, did you have no insight into their reactions at all? If you regularly measure employee sentiment through real-time pulse surveys—especially during times of change—you can more accurately pinpoint reactions and address issues immediately. The results of these pulse surveys empower your leadership team to be more forthcoming moving forward, earning the trust of employees and strengthening a transparent company culture.

 

If there is a strong link between employees and managers to the goals of the organization, the vision and values of the company will be embraced by all.

At the end of the day, the mindset shouldn’t be about how you can make tough decisions easier, but how you can make those decisions in a way that won’t negatively impact your employees or your organization’s objectives. Create a collaborative feedback culture, and when the time comes to make difficult decisions, you know that with your team’s insights in mind and trust in the leadership, the decision will be accepted positively.

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