When is the last time a choice you made resulted in making someone else mad? Downright, name calling, temper tantrum throwing, angry.
Did you enjoy it?
Probably not. If you did, I’d be concerned.
Most of us do not enjoy making other people angry. More accurately, most of us do not enjoy it when other people are mad at us.
Right there, the last word in that previous paragraph, is the issue. “Us.” It’s all about us. We dislike making other people upset because of how it reflects on us. We want other people to like us. We want to be loved.
We seek approval, affirmation. If someone is mad at me, I must have done something wrong. Right?
Maybe. Maybe not.
When is the last time you were angry? Blood boiling, head throbbing, ready to punch something, angry? What was it about?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that, ultimately, it involved you not getting your own way on some issue.
In those instances, I am also going to guess that once the dust settled, after some time had passed, once you’d had the opportunity to look at things from a broader perspective, you were able to see that maybe the issue, decision, statement, whatever it was that set you off, was the “right” thing. You still might not be happy about it, but you could see it was the best choice at the moment. Even if you were not able to say, “I was wrong,” you were likely able to say, “You were right.”
Leaders are often put into a position of making decisions that are unpopular. Sometimes these decisions make people downright angry.
Many times, the level of anger that results from an unpopular decision comes down to how the decision was made and/or is communicated. That is a deeper topic for another time. For now, let’s focus on the willingness to make a decision regardless of its popularity.
One of the guiding principles taught to me for making difficult choices as a leader is the 5 year rule. When we look back on this decision 5 years from now, will we still see this as the right choice?
The exact amount of time we project into the future isn’t all that important. Although, it should be long enough that you are beyond hurt feelings of individuals who are going to be impacted by the choice.
If we allow an unwillingness to upset people to stymie our ability to make a decision, we have failed as leaders. In the words of Neil Peart in the Rush song, “Freewill”, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.“
Do take the impact decisions will have on people seriously. Weigh the costs and benefits. Understand the full impact of the decision. Then make the choice. Even if it makes someone mad.
As a final thought, I leave you with this old groaner of a joke:
Johnny: Why are you so sad?
Billy: We shot our dog.
Johnny: Was he mad?
Billy: Well he sure wasn’t happy about it!