A leader asked me a great question the other day, “What do I do when I’m asked to deliver a tough message to my team that I don’t understand and don’t agree with?”

This leader felt she had two options: fake enthusiasm, stay positive, and deliver the message as written OR deliver the message, but let her team know she’s not onboard with the decision.

This dilemma is real and it’s something we all face—we don’t agree with every decision we have to support, and yet, we are still responsible for communicating and influencing our teams.

What doesn’t work? Faking enthusiasm. Our employees are smarter than that—they can smell a fake a mile away, and it undermines our credibility as a trusted team leader.   What else doesn’t work? Emotionally throwing up all over our team—it’s unpleasant and undermines our credibility as a trusted organizational leader.  Both extremes will be remembered, and both send messages to our people about our character and our culture.

What does work? Leadership, at its essence, is about finding the sweet spot, the just right place between what feels like two opposing choices.   This leader wants to be honest, transparent, and authentic in front of her team—all good things. She also wants to support the organization, which is part of her job—also a good thing.   But in order to do both, she has to find the balance between transparently sharing her thoughts and feelings while still supporting the company’s decision.

Her other option is one of my favorite change mottos (from a large manufacturing organization): Find Something to Like About It.



Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

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