In our last blog we talked about the idea of when to inform the masses. (You can read about it here). In that blog, we didn’t let our kids know that there was a tornado warning till the next morning after the entire event was over. Interestingly enough, when I did tell them their response was, “So what?” The entire incident led me to a place of wondering: When should we be informing the masses, and when should we be waiting?
There will always be moving parts in an organization that not everyone needs to know about, or they may not need to know about till after the decision is made. Then, there is also the reality that informing people during the decision-making process promotes a certain level of trust and unity. And the truth is, if you call yourself a leader, you will live in this tension for as long as you are leading.
In the church that I am privileged to serve, we recently had to deal with this in connection with the idea of changing service times. As an organization, we had been wrestling with this idea for months, but we didn’t introduce the topic to the congregation till we were sure we were ready.
On one side of the discussion is transparency, and on the other side of the discussion is fear/panic. How do you decide when/how to be transparent, while not inducing fear or panic from the people you lead?
Here are some of the things I think about when the tension arises in my life:
1. Does not telling people jeopardize my integrity? It takes years to earn trust, and only one bad decision to lose it all. I have decided that no matter what happens, I won’t lie about what is happening within the organization. My wife once gave me a sticky note that reads, “You are strong and honest.” I look at it every time I make a decision and remember that this is a foundational promise.
2. What is God telling me in prayer and Scripture? Start the decision-making process in prayer and end it in prayer. Prayer and reading God’s Word is the best way to ensure you (as the leader) aren’t rushing into something prematurely, or making a decision out of emotion/reaction.
3. What do my trusted advisors think about this decision? If you are a leader and you are making decisions in a vacuum, then you are always going to suck (I couldn’t help myself on the pun…sorry). All leaders need people in their life who can help them through difficult decisions. These advisors need to be brave enough to stand up to the leaders, and courageous enough always to tell the truth.
4. Will this hurt someone in the organization? This is an important question to wrestle with, because some decisions can put individuals in the organization in bad positions. Doing this consistently will destroy trust.
5. When is a good time to inform the organization? More often than not this will be a hard question to answer. Sometimes we have to sort out the mess before we let everyone else in on what is going on in the decision-making process. Letting people know too early can be detrimental, and letting people know too late can break trust.
One of the things that I am learning is that communication is more an art form than a science. It is painting a picture of integrity, trust, and perseverance that as leader and an organization we will continually do the right thing.
What do you think? Are there things in the decision-making process that you include? Anything I left out?