I recently listened to a webinar about personal integrity which happens to be one of our firm’s core values. The presenter of the webinar discussed six areas where leaders can unsuspectingly fall into a situation where they are not exemplifying integrity, but the one that was most striking to me, and possibly one of the hardest to successfully navigate, is the difference between commitment and support.
Many times a group of leaders will face an important decision that needs to be made, whether it is in a work setting, place of worship, volunteer setting, or even family unit. Rare is the case where all of the decision-makers, or those with input into the decision, are unanimous in their opinion. Frankly, the larger the magnitude of the decision, the more likely there is to be disagreement.
Yet, a resolution is often reached, which means that there are some people that are overly pleased with the outcome, and others for whom the ultimate decision did not go their way. Regardless of which side one is on, though, he or she must not only be supportive but also committed.
Being neither Supportive nor Committed
The worst situation is a leader who, when a decision does not go their way, not only refrains from commitment, but also neglects to be supportive. Let’s say that there is a decision about promoting an employee, and the decision is made to move forward with the promotion, but there was one leader who did not think the employee merited advancement. If that dissenter, the first time the employee stumbles in his or her new position, says something like, “well, that’s why I didn’t want that person in that role,” they have provided neither support nor commitment but have acted in a way that portrays a lack of unity and harmony, a sense of vindictiveness and resentment, and an inability to put the team’s desires ahead of one’s own.
Being Supportive but not Committed
Most leaders are not so self-absorbed that they refuse to be supportive or committed, but a big pitfall, and the point that the webinar speaker was getting at, is that many times a leader will support the group decision without being fully committed to it.
On the face, this looks like an act of magnanimousness, to get behind an idea that one disagreed with. However, it is only going half way to where a true leader needs to go. The risk is that if I disagree with the action suggested but the action goes forward, and I say, “I am on board” but I really mean “I’ll allow you to go forward and I won’t get in the way,” I’m really only offering my support.
If others in the group view my support as commitment and then see that I am not actually committed but only supportive, they will view me as a disingenuous member of the team who did not actually get “on board” when he said he would.
Being Supportive and Committed
The gold standard of this facet of integrity is not only support but commitment. A good example of this in action is when our firm changed names from Walz, Deihm, Geisenberger, Bucklen & Tennis to Walz Group. The way in which the branding change was implemented was such that every partner of the firm was not only behind the change but was leading the charge for the new branding, participating in videos, actively discussing a new tagline, and other necessary actions. It was not until years later that I learned that the method in which the branding changes were implemented was not initially met with unanimity. As a manager with the firm, I never had an inkling that there was anything other than complete accord, and that’s because the group of leaders, after a decision had been made, put aside any disagreement, and exchanged it not only support but also commitment.
When you do the same in your leadership roles, you will build trust from your fellow team members and respect from those that report to you, all in all, building a much stronger team that is ready for the next major decision that needs to be made.
By Dan Massey, CPA, Manager