They were the four most dreaded words of your childhood: “Because I said so!”
But now, as a manager making tough decisions and enforcing changes, you hear the same phrase slipping from your lips. You want to address your employees’ concerns, of course—but at the same time, you can’t afford to spend hours debating every facet of every decision you make.
At some point, you have to stop debating and start moving forward. And that’s when it becomes all too easy to assert your managerial power by letting those four words rip.
But, as your elementary-school-age self knows, those are frustrating words to hear. And they’re not the best words to manage by, either. As an effective leader, you truly do want your employees to buy into the decisions you’re making, rather than managing by force.
So what else can you say to keep your employees moving forward in the right direction—without spending fruitless hours debating your every move? Here are a few options.
1. “I’ve Decided to Do it This Way Because…”
First and foremost, what your employees are looking for is justification for your decision. They want to know that you’re not making changes simply because you have the power to do so.
You shouldn’t feel pressured to divulge every detail of the strategy meeting that led to each decision, of course—but you should be able to provide a clear, concise, and compelling reason for why you’re making the change.
If you can’t come up with an explanation beyond “Well, that’s the decision upper management made” or “That’s just the way things have to be,” then you haven’t asked enough questions yourself. Dive back into the reasoning behind the decision, or work with your boss to formulate a solid explanation that you can provide to your team—one that’s compelling, persuasive, and clearly shows why you’re enforcing this decision.
2. “Let’s Address Your Biggest Concerns”
When you initially explain a decision, your team may not necessarily be focused on the big picture—but instead, simply that the go-forward plan is different than what they currently know.
I can’t count the number of times that in response to a newly implemented change, my employees would tell me “But the old way worked just fine” or “We never had any issues with the way we used to do it.”
But, those aren’t actual concerns about the decision. They’re just complaints about having to experience change.
As the manager, you have to urge your team to narrow in on what they’re actually concerned about. Are they worried they won’t get enough training in the new process? Do they think a new workflow will take time away from their other tasks?
These are things you should be able to address—because ideally, you’ve already thought them through.
3. “This is the Way We’re Going to Try it First”
The key word here is, of course, first. This gently asserts your firm decision, while still letting your employees know that if it doesn’t work out the way you anticipate, you’ll be open to revisiting the issue down the road.
Acknowledging that you will be open to feedback in the future will help you get your employees on board for the time being—and, once they try it your way, they may find that their initial concerns aren’t as significant as they first thought.
It’s fine for your employees to ask for more information. But for the sake of your team’s productivity, at some point, you have to actually start moving forward with the plan. By addressing your employees’ concerns quickly and directly, you can get them on board to start making progress.
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