7 Things You Should Promise to Never Do as a Leader

  • October 31, 2017
  • by:Serhat Pala

This article first appeared on Inc.

Promises are essentially verbal contracts we make with each other or with ourselves. If you’ve broken a promise, you’ve broken one of these contracts (and even though that may not stand up in the court of law, it will definitely stand up in the court of friends, family and acquaintances).

Because I believe strongly in the sanctity of promises, I also believe they can be helpful when it comes to leadership in business. I don’t make actual verbal promises to my team, but I like to keep a list of promises I’ve essentially made to myself in regards to how I treat my team.

Try making them with yourself. You’ll be a better leader for it.

I will never lie to my team.

This one is obvious. You don’t have to say everything to everyone on your team, but if you can’t provide an answer to a question, just say you can’t answer it rather than coming up with a lie just to seem like you have an answer.

Beyond the moral reasoning of this promise, there are two other important factors:

  • Being honest is simply an easier thing to do.
  • You cannot establish trust and leadership when you lie.

I will never say “How about you ….” to a team member.

When someone starts a sentence with “How about you ….” the words that follow are almost always requests or orders put in the form of a suggestion. This is just a disguised way of saying: “I think you should do it the way I want you to do it.”

Maybe you do want someone on your team to do something a certain way, but you don’t have to be passive aggressive about saying it. Explain your reasoning to them and make sure they’re on board with your intentions.

I will never have the most expensive car in my company parking lot.

This one is quite easy for me to keep because I’m not really a “car guy” and luxury to me is going to the occasional restaurant that has cloth napkins instead of paper ones. Other business owners and CEOs, though, might like luxury and they might like expensive cars, but having the most expensive car in your company parking lot sends a strong message and it’s not a good one.

Whether you mean it to or not, it says: “I can buy the most expensive car here because I can afford it and you can’t.” That expensive car (or other display of ostentatious wealth) symbolizes your position and makes everyone walking through the parking lot wonder where they stand in the hierarchy of the company.

Each time someone asks for a raise or for money for a project they believe is important for the good of the company, your response of “No, we can’t at this time because …” becomes harder to believe.

I will never make a decision another team member is assigned and empowered to make.

Stepping in and making a decision that falls within the job description and decision making power of a team member is telling that person one of two things:

  • You don’t believe they can make the right decision, so you have to make it for them, or
  • Their professional development is less important than your desire to exercise your power to make decisions wherever and whenever you want.

There may be times when you have to step in and make a decision that would normally fall to someone on your team for some reason, but you shouldn’t step in and do it for no reason. It only undermines the important relationships that you have to build in a healthy company.

I will never only pretend to listen to my team members.

You have to listen to others if you expect them to listen to you in return. When someone is spending time and energy to tell you something they believe is important, the least you can do is to give them your full attention.

I will never keep anyone on a team that I don’t believe can grow within the team.

If you don’t believe someone can grow professionally in your organization because they don’t have the capacity, skill or motivation, then the best thing for that person and the team is to make a change. Let them move onto their next phase of their career and find someone who does have a future with your company. And if you cannot make that decision and execute on it, maybe it is your leadership that needs a change.

I will never be rude to my team members.

There is nothing you can gain by being rude. If you believe like I do that the best leaders lead by example, then even on your worst day you have to be polite and to all your team members.

By keeping these simple promises to yourself and, in turn, your team members, you’ll be creating a more positive work environment for everyone. I promise.

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