What do you do when the intense pressure of success clashes with your better judgment of who to bring onto the team? Do you hire them based on their skills—or access to capital—or do you hope someone better comes along, quickly?
Sitting across the table from me, Janet wrestled with the burden of saying “No,” or “Yes” to a potential investor she didn’t trust. I watched her squirm as she spoke of the need for their money in order to keep the lights on. “If I don’t take this money,” she said, “I won’t be able to make payroll. We’re talking about my employees’ livelihoods here.”
She seemed desperate to make a decision, yet no decision felt right. This investor had already conveniently changed their promise of $250K for 3% of the business to $150K for 6%. They also dragged their feet on signing the agreement and simply continued decreasing what they would give while increasing what they would get.
An incredibly intuitive person, Janet usually goes with her gut on most decisions. In this situation, though, she struggled because of her team. While she needed cash in the short term, she didn’t want to marry this investment firm for the long haul. “I can’t always make decisions based on my feelings — my gut,” she said. “Eight families are now counting on these funds.”
Talk about pressure!
I asked Janet if she had talked with her team about the full magnitude of the situation. After all, if she decided to bring this investor on, they would all have to deal with them. And, if she didn’t, they would all have to bare the pressure of funds running out.
Janet wondered aloud why she hadn’t shared with them yet: “This idea fits with my leadership style — I’m naturally transparent — but I guess I just thought I should get over myself and let the company invest.”
“The potential upside is rarely worth the clear downside of dealing with sneaky people,” I suggested, “but ultimately your team will help you find the answer.”
“If they know the potential negatives of both decisions — the potential of losing their jobs — then either way, it won’t come to them as a surprise,” Janet agreed.
“Count yourself lucky,” I suggested. “This is a great opportunity to let them see you sweat — to build the kind of trust that comes from the vulnerability created by uncertainty — and include them in the decision-making process.”
Then I shared a closely-related story about a CEO struggling with the potential of losing a significant profit margin due to the new Affordable Care Act regulations. He was uncomfortable about disclosing numbers or sharing his plan with his employees, but he was also concerned he would lose good quality people. “They won’t work for these wages, and I need to make a profit,” he said.
Ultimately though, sharing his situation with his team provided a great opportunity to gain new ideas. The trust and dedication on his team soared and they’re all making it through the change together.
“I’m going to call a meeting tonight,” Janet said.
“Let them see you sweat, Janet. It will make you more human.”
“You got it,” she said and rushed out the door.
Later, I asked how the meeting went.
“It ended up being a great bonding situation. Late into the night people were sending digital hugs and high fives, affirming we would get through the next couple of months together,” Janet shared.
Whether they decide to bring on the investor or not, their bond as a team had certainly strengthened. This is the power of a leader turning vulnerability on its head and sharing the journey, regardless of the outcome.
What outcome are you struggling with right now? Have you shared the truth and asked your team for help? What would happen if you did?
p.s. let me know what you think! Write a comment!