Leaders change their minds

BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - August 4, 2018 - 12:00am

Have you ever gotten a call from a telemarketer and the conversation goes this way, “Hi, Mr. Francis Kong, this is (name) from (bank) and may I please inform you that this conversation is recorded...”

Famous podcast personality and author Todd Henry says: “One of the more concerning dynamics of the “everything-is-on-the-record-all-the-time” world is that changing your mind–especially in a highly public way–has now become SIN NUMBER ONE.” If a politician or business leader evolves in their understanding of a topic, we call them a flip-flopper. But, if someone alters their once-fierce perspective in light of newfound information, we call them a hypocrite or a traitor.

I have always stood on the ethical foundation that once a promise is made, it should not be broken, and once a commitment is promised, it should be delivered. Our word should be our bond, for trust and credibility are the most important currencies of leadership. But, as to the matter of our topic today, I refer to issues that do not concern morality or ethics. I am referring to leaders who need to change their minds and alter their decisions because situations demand them to do so.

The leader is still a learner. In fact, a leader who has given up on learning becomes irrelevant, obsolete, and his or her decisions may be detrimental to the people or the business. Learning will always shape and change a person. The learning leader knows that present ideas may be incorrect, incomplete, or because of recent developments, may have rendered the decisions irrelevant.

Todd Henry says, “I would even go so far as to say that if you’ve not changed your mind about something in the past few years, you may be less than intellectually honest or lacking curiosity.” Fossilizing around your hypotheses is a lazy way to approach life and work, and in the end, it will result in a compromised body of work.

This is something that leaders grapple with. A statement had been made in the last Town Hall meeting, and the situation now requires a drastic change in the course of action that neet to be taken.

“But this wasn’t what we planned in our strategic meeting!”, cries the complaining team. Of course, but realize that had planned in the last business strategic session could still be useful, assuming that the projections are based on daily occurrences that are constant and predictable. But in most likelihood, they would never be. Those who find the change uncomfortable because they will have to work harder, or those whose personal agenda will not be realized would accuse their leaders of being “hypocritical” or being “untruthful”.

The leader has the option to choose to stick to his or her previous announcement for fear of being ostracized as having made a mistake, or the leader has the humility to alter his decision and explain why changes must be made. When the leader sticks to what was said and is unwilling to change the mind and alter decisions, isn’t that in itself being untruthful?

Responsible leaders have to weigh the pros and cons. They must have the courage to change course. This is why leaders do change their minds. In other words, “Great leaders are willing to change their mind when confronted with new information”, as Todd Henry would say.

I have changed my mind and have altered my decisions over the many years of my leadership journey. While certain people would never say it to my face, I get that some people may accuse me of making their lives uncomfortable and even go to the extent of questioning my credibility and “word of honor.”

Here is the one thing that whiners would never know and understand. The decision is never whimsical as the leader stake his or her reputation. The decision must be made for the benefit the rest of the organization and not for himself alone. This will never be understood by the complaining and whining pack.

This is different from “pivoting.” It is when someone says something about a truth claim, and then when caught for not telling the truth or acting ethically, the person “pivots” and says something else to justify the unethical behavior.  I saw a cartoon quip wherein a man was casually conversing with his friends over beer and said, “It is not that I have been unfaithful with my love for my wife, I am just pivoting my love to someone else.” Now that statement does not only stink, but also emits an odor of lie and deceit.

Leaders should never be afraid to be wrong. The fear of being wrong can prevent them from seeking the truth. Todd Henry analyzed this and said, “We equate our ideas and positions with our worth as a human being, and when our ideas are challenged, it feels like a personal attack.”

No, it isn’t. I can assure you. Although it may be unpopular to alter course and change decisions, leaders are not running a popularity contest. They must be passionate in the pursuit of doing the right things that would benefit the whole and not for them.

In your next business planning, as many of my clients are already getting ready to do this, make sure that you allow room for change and in your leadership training, train your people on how to manage ambiguity in circumstance, but never compromise on truth.

Yes, Leaders do change their minds.

(Attend two inspiring days of leadership training with Francis Kong in his highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership seminar-workshop this Sept. 18 and 19 at Makati Diamond Residences near Greenbelt 1. For registration or inquiries, contact April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at www.levelupleadership.ph)

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