PAETEC, a Rochester based company recently was sold to Windstream and on the day of the shareholder’s vote, the CEO Arunas Chesonis was set to be the guest speaker at a leadership breakfast entitled “My Top 5 Biggest Blunders and Top 5 Genius Moves in Building a Fortune 1000 Company.” My very dear friend and reporter, Leah George, was there and captured this very intense and real quote:
“You get one strike with your employees and once you break that trust, you never get it back,” said Chesonis.
How true this statement really is, yet I am curious as to how many managers, owners and executives really understand this to be fact? I am typically writing from the point of view of a manager/decision maker acting as their advocate, but with this, I have to fall to the other side (at least partially). Too many times in business I have witnessed business owners and executives who work so very hard to be transparent, yet when pushed into a corner, like many of us in our daily lives, falter. So when we falter as executives and managers how do we remain true and honest with our employees?
Here are three things I know to be true:
- Telling a half truth is just like telling a lie
- Keeping your mouth shut is just like telling a lie
- Lying is Lying
Ok, so we got that covered. How do we protect the companies future, trade secrets, current happenings etc… while keeping the trust with the team?
- Rumors happen no matter what
- There is no reason to tell all of what is going on
- Share what you can and explain in plain English that changes are happening and you are working with your advisors to make the best possible decision for the entire team
- Remind them that the entire team includes you, your family and those who have been with you since the beginning
- Be comfortable with, “I know there is a feeling of uncertainty, know that I am making every effort … weigh all options… make this decision, etc…. but that is all I can say on the issue right now” when asked a direct question
Address the feelings both in private but then in public, especially if you or your office has received the same or similar question more than once. Ignore something does not make it go away. You are continuing to maintain the office or work place as a “safe” place and there aren’t many safe places left. See things from their side, so many companies are downsizing, off shoring, or closing that every closed door meeting means that someone is getting fired in the eyes of your employees.
There is no doubt that employees feel that they have more of a right to know about what is occurring behind closed doors than they may have 20 years ago, blame Enron (or try). The issue is so much of the personal and professional culture of a business is transparent at some level and finding that balance is extremely important. If there is something big brewing, people can tell so address what you can immediately. Once you break an employees trust, even through the treatment of a fellow employee, you have lost respect from that person and they will begin to second guess your decision making capabilities as an owner or executive.
Any award winning or successful owner/manager will tell you that the key to their success is their people. Even if you don’t see complete value in each of your employees every single day, that is ok. It is kind of like being in a marriage, as my soon to be mother in law says, one of you is always going to love the other more!
In the next few weeks I am really looking forward to writing about another great quote Chesonis had: He told group he has learned you can never fire people too fast and that decisions shouldn’t be dictated by arrogance or greed.