The ugly truth behind having secrets

Information is power. What information should you share with your team? What are the things that are better kept secret? And how does leadership fit into the picture? What secrets should you have as a leader and what things should you never hide? Being strong believer in transparency and honesty I don’t think there are many things that should be kept hidden. I can imagine there can be things that if shared would have legal implications but that’s it. Anything that doesn’t have legal impact should be in the open. Let me make my case.

Reasons to hide information?

I have often heard from managers that some information shouldn’t be shared as they would have negative impact on motivation of the team. The team would question some of the decisions, and people wouldn’t understand why something was necessary. Sometimes there is this fear that when you share information it can be used against you. Let me debunk some of these myths.

Sharing negative information will demotivate the team – why should it? Explaining the situation as it is will be seen as a show of respect and trust. After all, we are dealing with mature adults who know that life is complicated. And if you can follow up with a vision of the future you may even create a sense of urgency and make people act to change things for the best

Things can change – so sharing proposals that are not approved will create friction. People hate uncertainty. And people from most cultures also hate not being included in decisions that impact their lives. Keeping your team in the loop even during a decision making process will allow them to contribute and will create a feeling that their opinion matters. When you share the final decision it will be much easier to accept by the team.

People would question my decision if I share too much information – why should they? I assume you based your decision on a certain set of data points, information, values and beliefs. It is exactly the other way around. People will be more likely to accept the decision if they understand how and why it was made.

If I share this proposal someone may steal it finish and take credit – great! That would free your hands to do other stuff. Getting someone to take your idea and execute it is the best thing that can happen to you as I mentioned in Leave your ego at the door article.

If I share information with others I won’t have advantage over them – why should you have advantage over anyone? You work with the team towards a common goal. The moment you start playing office politics and trying to get advantage over others you no longer work towards that goal and will destroy your reputation as a leader in the nick of time.

I’m the boss, the team doesn’t need to know the details – you are right, they don’t need to know. But again, if you want them to follow you and work towards the common goal the more information you provide the bigger likelihood that they will have the sense of ownership and work to the best of their abilities to achieve the goal.

I’m shielding the team from too much information so they don’t get distracted – why did you hire bunch of legally insane people? And if you hired smart and adult individuals why do you believe you need to filter information for them? It is their responsibility to filter things they need and don’t need. By giving them the opportunity to decide what is important you treat them with respect and it is more likely they will follow you. I love this quote by Ricardo Semler “Workers are adults, but once they walk through the plant gate companies transform them into children.” Or something similar said by Jason Fried in his book Rework – “When you treat people like children, you get children’s work. Yet that’s exactly how a lot of companies and managers treat their employees.”

Why to share information?

And to share one more quote. Some time ago I heard this (not sure about its origin) “In absence of a good story someone else can make up a story of his own.” People love to speculate and imagine things, the less information they have the more wild things they will come up with and the more damaging these speculations will be. Being open and transparent pretty much prevents unwanted speculations and gossip and creates a culture of mutual trust and sense of ownership of the common goal and future of the company. Let us look at a manager who shares information and creates environment of transparency, inclusion and trust.

Transparency and trust – by being transparent you show a great deal of trust that your team will be able to handle the information like reasonable adults. When you trust people they will trust you back.

Inclusion and sense of ownership – by including people in decisions and sharing information with them you are making them part of the decision and you create a sense of ownership.

Honesty and human face – by being open and honest even at times when you are lost and unsure about the correct course of action and if you freely admit mistakes you put a human face on you and will be more acceptable for others. They will follow you because they will know that you won’t lie to safe your face.

Sharing and empowerment – sharing information, sharing responsibility and sharing the means to get things done leads to empowerment. Empowered teams will accomplish the goals, will stay together and will love their work without much external stimuli

What about compensation?

The ultimate test of open environment is sharing information about compensation of the members of the team or at least that of management. Compensation is one of the most emotional topics in the business environment and figuring out a way to get it out of the table can have a really positive effect on productivity and motivation of the team. If you hide the information, you have unclear rules on how are individuals compensated, you don’t communicate openly decisions why someone got increase of salary and why this particular number you create an opportunity for guessing, gossip and false beliefs. People are curious so they will try to estimate salaries of others, their own worth and will most likely create picture that is very far from the reality. Most of us have the tendency of overestimating our own value. At the same time we tend to believe that we are not compensated well enough and the others must make whole bunch more. Why else would they look so happy? Wouldn’t it make sense to introduce as much clarity and transparency so you align better the expectations and the reality?

In a book “Maverick!” Ricardo Semler describes some of the inner workings of Brazilian manufacturing company Semco. It is a workplace where he created completely transparent environment with very flat organizational structure and without hidden agendas and office politics. It is a place run by democratic principles where employees are truly empowered. For example, each of the executives could set their own salaries without any need of someone approving it. Of course, everyone in the company would know their salary so that created environment where people would set salaries for themselves that would be seen as fair by others. Or another example from Semco, before people are hired or promoted to leadership positions, they are interviewed and approved by all who will be working for them. Every six months managers are evaluated by those who work under them. The results are posted for all to see thus pushing the manager to constantly improve and make sure their teams are willing to follow.

Twitter type summary: “Information is power! Give as much power as possible to the team and create a sense of ownership and desire to reach the common goal.”

What is your position? What sort of information do you believe should be hidden from your team and why?

How to avoid “single point of failure” situations in your team?

One of the most often overlooked tasks of any leader is to plan his succession and to ensure he has a plan how to ensure his team works even if he loses a key contributor. We are all so submerged in the daily tasks that we often don’t realize that we fail to make the team resilient and disaster-proof. So how do you fix this situation?

Identify single-point-of-failure team members

Who are the key people in your organization? How do you identify them? The most obvious mistake you can make is to start looking at titles or seniority. Very often these things doesn’t matter that much and don’t mean that the person is a key to the success of your team and difficult to replace. I have always asked myself these couple of questions:

  • Does the person hold a unique knowledge? (being it institutional knowledge, technical or just knowing lots of people that are key to your team survival and no one else knows them or has that knowledge)
  • Does the person have a unique skill-set? (he might be The salesman, The leader to whom everyone comes for advice and mentoring or have a way to negotiate with others that gets your team anything you need)
  • Does the person provide a unique function that holds the team together? (he might be The leader even if his title doesn’t say it, or just provide a social role that keeps the team together and makes the work fun)

Find a suitable mitigation strategy

When you identify the key people think about what would happen if they wouldn’t show up in the office tomorrow. Just imagine how your team would look like without that particular person. Ask yourself:

  • What is the unique knowledge, skill or function you would have to replace?
  • What would be the impact on the team, atmosphere, product, customers?
  • What would be the short-term and long-term impact?
  • What would be the impact on daily operations?
  • What would be the impact on the potential growth of the team?

When you have the list look at the rest of the team and find people who are close of taking over that particular knowledge, skill or function. If you cannot find anyone who would be even close you are in trouble and you should seriously consider augmenting your team with an experienced person from outside sooner rather than later.

Execute and regularly follow-up

Assuming you found couple of people who would be able to take on some of the function of the key individual create a development plan for them to get the necessary skill or knowledge. Talk with your key employee and make it a point that he or she as a person who has something unique should make it a mission to share this with others. Let him mentor the people you identified as a potential candidates to learn the skill. As it goes with any developmental plans you need to regularly follow-up on the progress of the knowledge transfer or skill enhancement.

Make it part of your decision making process

Keep the execution plan readily available and look at it every time you make a decision about assigning new responsibilities to someone or making reorganization in your team. Ensure that with each new change you remove some of the single-point-of-failure situations, you give people a chance to learn new skills or get knowledge they need to act as a back-up for your key people. The biggest mistake organizations make is to constantly assign their key people on all critical or new projects thus creating bigger and bigger dependency on them, limiting others to grow and increasing the risk for the business.

If you want this exercise to have any meaningful impact you need to repeat it on a regular basis. Probably not every week but once every couple of months especially if the organization grows or shrinks is advisable. When you get to a point that the list of key people gets to zero it means you build enough resilience into the organization that it will survive anything (like someone taking a day off).

Twitter type summary: “Your responsibility as a leader is to identify key people and plan for their unexpected demise. The goal is not to have key people at all.”

Do you have a plan how to ensure your team survives and can execute its mission even if a key contributor leaves?

Leave your ego at the door

Have you ever had a feeling that someone has stolen your idea and presented it as his own? Did you feel bad about it? Did you feel it is not fair and that you should take the credit? Why? The answer is really simple: the need for recognition and credit for something we thought up is strong in all of us. I’m sure it has happened to many of us, and I’m also sure that very often we don’t realize that it was the best thing that could happen. Dwelling too much on our ego often prohibits us from learning, growing, or from getting the idea to the next level, getting it to be widely accepted and enthusiastically executed.

Imagine that after several weeks of work analyzing data from several projects and getting feedback from numerous people you come up with a proposal how to improve a particular process in your company. You meet with several senior managers from the company and present your idea. They seem to like it but you don’t hear the enthusiastic reaction you expected. After two weeks one of the managers sends an email to the whole company announcing a new change in the process exactly the way you proposed. How do you feel? He stole your idea. It is being implemented but everyone believes it is his idea, and your name never comes up. So what? This is a blessing in disguise. Look at it from positive side. He took your idea and it is being implemented! And it has a backing of a senior manager so it will be done much better than you ever could. That is actually a great win for you as you contributed heavily to the success of the company. If you tried to hold on your idea and pushed your ego forward it may have never been implemented at all.

Leadership is about getting things done. It is not about your ego or taking credit, but about being able to marshal forces necessary to push forward and reach the set goal. When things go as planned the leader should be pretty invisible to the outsider world and the team should take the credit. And it doesn’t matter whether the team is someone reporting to you, your peer, or your superior. As long as things get done you are doing a good job.

The time for you to get to the spotlight comes when things turn sour. The project is delayed, the team doesn’t execute as it should, the customer is angry. That is when you have to step up and resolve the issues. Don’t blame others, don’t blame the team, it is your fault as a leader that you were not able to prevent the issue from happening so accept the blame, learn from it, forget it, and focus on the solution. Of course you need to provide appropriate feedback to your team but it shouldn’t be broadcasted outside. The team and its individual members should get the feedback and should understand what went wrong, learn from it and resolve the issue. But it is internal matter. For the rest of the world, you take the blame and the responsibility for fixing it.

That is called leadership. It is unlikely that people will follow someone who focus more on himself than his team. Why to follow a person who will always push his agenda over yours? And if the team doesn’t follow you than things won’t get done, the business will suffer and in the long run you will fail.

Twitter type summary: “Leadership is about marshaling forces necessary to get things done and not about your ego or taking credit.”

What are your thoughts about the topic? Should the team take the credit or its leader? Or would you go for something in between?

Looking at the world through the eyes of 5-years old

Have you ever wondered why some people walk through their lives always with a smile on their face and happy while others are constantly worrying and see only the problems and what can go wrong? Are you one of those who could use a little bit more optimism in your life?

Lots of that is given by genetics, our childhood, upbringing, life experiences and generally things in the past that cannot really be undone. I was a very serious child, always worried too much about everything and when I was growing up I always saw the glass as half empty, always had a plan B in case something goes wrong, and always had a rather pessimistic view of the world. And then something happened and I realized that I can change it all and I want to change it. Today, I’m the most optimistic person you could meet and I love it. So let me share with you some of the things that changed my mindset. I’m not saying they will work for you, but they can get you started. As I see it, these are the traits we are born with. These are the traits that every child has but somehow we forget them as we grow.

  • Be open – open to new ideas, open to new experiences, open with your thoughts, open with people around you.
  • Be curious – about things around you, about people you meet, about the world, and about yourself. Learn new things as much as you can and always try to experience something new.
  • Trust others – learn from past mistakes but don’t automatically assume bad intentions or ulterior motives. There is no reason to close down and hide everything from everyone and be on constant guard. It just focuses your mind on negatives. And remember your mind will provide you with more of the things you focus on.
  • Enjoy pushing your comfort zone and try new things – learn to constantly push the boundaries of what you can do and experience. It will prepare you for changes and surprises. Life is full of changes, challenges, and surprises so why not train to be able to deal with them with enthusiasm.
  • Enjoy what you haveDale Carnegie said “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” Learn to embrace life you’ve got. Learn to be happy with things you have and don’t be envious or jealous, it will just make your life miserable.
  • Don’t live in the past – why to keep your mind occupied by something that has happened in the past and cannot be changed? Reliving the past will just make you miserable and will steal precious minutes from living now.
  • Don’t live in the future – it is great to have a dream. So yes, dream, but then go and take the first step to make your dream a reality. If you just keep dreaming without working on getting to your dream you will never get there and ultimately will be disappointed and unhappy with your life.
  • Don’t blame others – you and only you are responsible for your life. There is no point in blaming your parents, teacher, spouse, boss, or fate. We are all responsible for our own thoughts, feelings and destiny.
  • Don’t watch TV – what’s the point? You would just waste an hour of your life watching stories about how other people (often imaginary) live. Just go and live yourself.

And as we are no children anymore let me add two more points for us adults

  • Manage your expectations – set your expectations in such a way that you won’t be disappointed whatever happens. In fact, you may want not to set expectations at all and just enjoy things as they come. The worst thing you can do is overthinking everything. My grandmother who lived through WWII in Europe would even at the end of 20th century still say things like “You shouldn’t waste that food what if there is a war.”
  • See things in perspective – if you are reading this it means you have access to a computer, internet, you have a nice home or an office. Do you know how many people in the world don’t have electricity or even drinkable water? Travelling to some poor countries (for example in Africa) can really open your eyes and change your worldview pretty dramatically.

When I look at myself today I can see someone who is becoming increasingly cynical as I grow older. I do understand that not everything in life can be the way I want and there are many things I cannot really influence. If I would continue in that train of thought I would become really miserable and unhappy person. Isn’t it better to remember back when you were the 5-years old naive kid with short attention span who just enjoyed every day, always tried new things and was able to quickly recover from any mistakes by simply not overthinking them?

Twitter type summary: “To form a more positive view of the world don’t over-analyze everything and try to be a bit more open, curious, trusting and naive.”

What is your recipe for living every day with positive and optimistic mindset? What are the things that helps you achieve that?

Make your meeting count

Meetings. One of the most dreaded and wasteful activities in most organizations. At least, when they are not done right and don’t have the right focus. There are many types of meetings starting with presentations & training, workshops, all-hands, regular status meetings, quick stand-ups or decision making meetings. They fulfill also different purposes. Some are meant just to share information, some are meant to trigger discussion and some will provide a forum for making decisions. So what can you do to make these meetings painless, productive and really powerful? There are couple of basic rules that fit those needs most of the time.

Rules for truly productive meetings

  • Have a goal – and communicate it clearly in the invitation. You may be really explicit like “The goal of this meeting so to decide what we have for lunch today.” Having a goal keeps you focused and sets the expectations of the audience. It will also enable you to show at the end of the meeting that “it was successful because you reached the goal and decided that today we get chicken” and thus participants will feel good about the time spent.
  • Invite the right participants – and no one else. It is important to ensure that people on the meeting have a vested interest in the topics. What is the point of inviting Petr if we all know he doesn’t eat lunch?
  • Have an agenda – and send it out together with the key information in advance. It will allow everyone (including you) to prepare. It will also allow the participants to raise their hand in case of missing topics. “Attached to the invitation is a menu from our favorite restaurant, please read it before the meeting so you are prepared for the discussions.”
  • Time constrain the meeting – begin and end on time. Be mindful of everyone’s time. If meetings drag for longer than planned you will lose focus of attendees as they will be thinking about their next thing. “The meeting will be held on Tuesday at 10:00 and will finish 10:25.” It might be a good idea to allow people time to move from one meeting to another and thus don’t schedule for 1 hour or 30 minutes but rather for 45 or 25 minutes.
  • Prepare – do as much work ahead of the meeting as possible. Prepare the structure, the important questions, you may even draft an outline of the meeting notes and fill in the blanks during the meeting. Share any documents or powerpoint slides before the meeting so people can study them in advance and prepare their questions.
  • Focus – don’t get the meeting derailed by adding too many topics or getting into too much detail. If there is something to be discussed between limited number of participants then take it offline. “Guys I understand that some of you want to grab a beer after the lunch, please take it offline after the meeting.” And end every item with summary of the outcome to make sure everyone is clear on what was agreed.
  • Keep list of Action Items – and identify who is the owner of each of them. Meeting without a list of decisions made or things to do will feel like waste of time. Even in meetings that are purely informational you can provide participants with a task (for example to distribute the information to their teams) so they don’t forget the meeting ever happened when leaving the room.
  • Follow-up – send notes outlining any important decisions made and list of action items as a reminder for participants on what needs to be done. “Team, as we agreed we meet today at 11:00 in the restaurant and will get a chicken with rice.” You may want to get feedback from participants on how to improve future meetings.

Obviously not every meeting needs to follow this outline but the standard ones focused on sharing important information and making decisions should. For those coming from software development world you may want to consider adapting a concept from SCRUM called daily stand-up meeting also to activities not directly related to writing software. In this meeting the participants meet for no more than fifteen minutes to discuss briefly the work done, the work ahead, and the obstacles to remove. Participants do it while standing to force everyone to be brief in his or her input. It is very organized and focused event. When done regularly and the right way it brings enormous value to the team without wasting too much time.

Twitter type summary: “Meeting without goal, agenda, good preparation, focus, list of action items and follow-up is called coffee break.”

How do you run your meetings? Or did you found a way to get rid of them altogether?

How can you motivate others? You can’t!

If you are a manager, a team lead or a project manager who is new to the role you are probably asking yourself this simple question: “How can I motivate my team?” I don’t want to disappoint or discourage you, but the answer is also very simple: “You can’t!” Years of building and managing teams showed me that there is no way you can externally motivated someone who is internally not motivated and likes to feel miserable or helpless. Stephen R. Covey once said “Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.” In my eyes, being motivated is a state of mind. It is a feeling that drives us to accomplish things, to do, to act, to reach something specific. Every coach would tell you that we are all responsible for our own feelings and no one else can change them.

So what can you do? In fact there are quite few things you can do to allow people to be motivated. You will not motivate them, but you will create circumstances that will lead to internal motivation of the team. Daniel H. Pink explains in his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” that motivation in modern economy where you are required to use creative thinking has three components: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Autonomy is a state when you have the freedom to do what you want and how you want it to be done. Mastery is a mindset that keeps you learning and getting better at what you do. Purpose sets context for the previous two and keeps you engaged and fulfilled by doing something larger than you. These are all intrinsic motivators that must be found by each individual himself. The one thing you can do is to provide environment where it is possible.

Understand your team

  • What are the values of each individual on your team?
  • What are the things that matter to them?
  • What personal goals do they have?
  • What makes them tick?
  • What are they passionate about?
  • What makes them come to the office every day?
  • What makes them laugh?
  • What makes them cry?

Provide motivating environment

  • Provide meaningful job – everyone should work on something that makes sense. In no circumstances should a member of your team do something just for the sake of keeping him busy
  • Provide challenges – everyone should have a work that is always one step above what he can comfortably achieve, that way he learns and grows
  • Provide responsibilities – trust your team and give them responsibilities, autonomy, let them decide on how to get things done – empower
  • Provide constructive feedback – that is the way we learn. Make sure you create environment where people want to receive and provide feedback and know how to do it
  • Provide information and clear goals – keep the team informed about the big picture and how their work contributes to the common goal

Use motivating approach

  • Guide – guide your team through difficult times. They must know that when things go wrong you are there to help and stand beside them and help overcome the obstacle.
  • Inspire – you should bring energy and inspiration. When people see you and talk to you they should leave energized and with feeling they learned something.
  • Show trust – this is critical. Forget the “trust must be earned” paradigm. You need to trust your team and show that trust. Only then will the team reciprocate and trust you.
  • Listen – really listen, not just to the words but to the meaning behind them. Make sure you not just listen but you show that you are listening and then take actions.
  • Be a role model – lead by example might be a cliché, but a good one. People won’t be motivated in environment where the leader doesn’t walk his talk
  • Use positive vocabulary – phrases like “Maybe”, “It’s difficult”, “It won’t work”, “I guess” don’t inspire much confidence and thwart enthusiasm and drive. Use responses like “Excellent”, “Let’s do it”, “We make it work”.
  • Use humor – nothing works better to eliminate stress than use of humor. A simple humorous statement can defuse an argument, relieve stress and get you closer to your team. Just make sure you are not seen as a clown.
  • Recognize routine jobs & reward outstanding work – I’m sure you reward big achievements, but what about the small ones? Every big milestone consists of couple of simple tasks that deserves some sort of recognition too. You should reward people for outstanding achievements and not to forget all the other team members who did well on the routine jobs and helped the success in less visible ways.

Everyone is different and your ability to keep the team together and keep them motivated is really important for the success of the project or the company. The fact that the road to motivated team members is not a direct one and there is now simple rule how to achieve it is what makes your job interesting. Especially when you are new to the role of a leader take a solace in the fact that we all do mistakes and it will take you couple of year or decades of experimenting until you are able to say that you’ve seen everything and know how to motivate most types of people… and even then you will be wrong.

Twitter type summary: “You cannot force people to be motivated, but you can create environment where they get a chance to motivate themselves.”

What are your thoughts? Are you motivated? Is your team motivated? How did you achieve it? And if you didn’t achieve it, why not?

Life is not fair! So what?

Life is not fair! Who told you it is? It is not, and let’s be grateful for that. Why? Because what is and isn’t fair means different thing to each of us. Let me give you an example from my childhood. I have a sister that is two years younger. When I was ten years old I had a great appetite and was able to eat an enormous amount of food. She was eight and didn’t eat much. It is Sunday, we have a lunch and both of us get a steak. Only one! She cannot almost eat it. I gobble it up and then had to eat tons of bread or potatoes as I still feel hungry. Each of us got one steak. Was it fair? According to my mom it was. According to me it of course wasn’t. I eat twice as much so I deserve two steaks. Did I produced twice as much work, or was twice as much nicer? In my mind, not relevant. And let’s be grateful that life is not fair because, maybe, I didn’t deserve a steak at all…

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “fair” as (among other things):

  • a: marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism <a very fair person to do business with>
  • b (1): conforming with the established rules : allowed
  • b (2): consonant with merit or importance : due <a fair share>

So what does this mean in a professional environment for a leader? How do you explain to your team whether something is or is not fair? How do you react when you are approached by a subordinate demanding a new computer because it is not fair that his colleague got one and he didn’t? How do you make the unfair life for everyone as much fair as possible? One way is to make sure you make your decision as impersonal as possible. To do just that you should consider couple of thoughts.

Have clear values and stick to them

Having a solid value system will not only help you to get through rough times but will also guide your team. If you live by your values and your team sees that your actions are in line with your words you gain respect and trust. When people trust you they will feel that you are fair in dealing with them and the others. If everyone knows that one of the basic values you adhere to is the need of fairness it will be much more easier for you to push forward actions that you believe are fair even if they may not seem so fair to others. They will still see that this is what you strongly believe in and because it is consistent with your actions in the past they will follow.

Be able to explain your position

Always be able to answer the “Why” question. If you are unable to explain why you believe something is fair and needs to be done then how can you expect others to believe in it? People have different points of view on what “fair” is and being able to explain your position is the key.

Be transparent and consistent

Explaining your position is the start. The next step is to announce it to the team so they understand what the decision is, why it was done, and why you believe it is fair this way. It is there for everyone to see. You prevent people speculating about hidden agendas and secret deals, you show them trust and because it is consistent with your standard behavior the team will accept your view of the fairness. And even if they don’t believe it deep in their hearts they will at least accept it.

Set the rules and follow them

To help you being consistent you may need more than set of values. What helps is having couple of basic rules derived from your values. Value itself might be difficult to explain. You can have values like “openness” or “fairness” but what does it actually means? As discussed before these may mean different things to different people so you need to have set of simple rules that explain the values.

Play with the cards you’ve got

Sometimes you get to a tough spot when whatever you do it is clear that your actions will not be seen fair by everyone. There will be those who will feel that even after your explanation it just isn’t fair. Then don’t dwell on the fairness and turn it around. Don’t focus on the negative impact to that individual but find the positive side. As the saying goes “every cloud has a silver lining” and it is just a question of mindset. If you help your team member who feel something wasn’t fair to find the positive side in long-term or just push his focus away of the issue to something more positive it helps. It will not change anything on the decision or the way the person feels about it but it will move his attention to something more positive. And human brain is wired in such a way that we get more of things and feelings we focus on.

Let me illustrate these things on a simple example. Your company sits in a building that offers ten parking spots per hundred people. How do you decide who should get the spot and who needs to park farther away from the office? What most companies would do is to give it to the most senior team members, usually managers. Is it fair? Sure it is, from the perspective of the managers. But what the perspective of the team? They work as hard as the managers so why the preferential treatment? What if the environment you are creating promotes equality? What if you want the managers to be really close to the team? Then you just cannot do it this way. So you follow the principles outlined above and can come up for example with something like this:

  • Have clear values and stick to them = you treat all your people with respect and the same way regarding of the title or position in the company
  • Set the rules and follow them = who comes from outside the city limits gets the parking spot, who lives in the city can use other means; be clear in that you understand there are other approaches that can be seen as fair by someone, but since we selected one approach we will follow it
  • Be transparent and consistent = be clear on who got the spot; don’t make exceptions, that would break trust of the team
  • Be able to explain your position = you provide equal opportunities and you believe that for a team work everyone has should get an equal chance to feel the successes but also the pain (not having space to park the car); only because someone has a fancy title doesn’t make him better person than rest of the team
  • Play with the cards you got = for those who travel just from within the city the use of public transport can be a hidden opportunity to read, or to use bicycle and do something for their health; or bring up solidarity with those who have to travel from far away

The best thing you can do as a leader and in fact as an individual is to learn to play with the cards life deals to you. Compare it with a game of poker or any other card game. When you get your cards dealt you don’t get angry or upset and start complaining that it is not fair you got just one pair and your opponent royal flush. You just accept the cards and make the best out of it. With that attitude you will enjoy the game and be glad you can be with your friends and have some relaxing time. So why not to behave the same way in the real life?

Twitter type summary: “Sticking with your values, being firm, transparent and consistent in your actions will make you seen as a leader who is fair.”

How do you decide what is fair? Does it even matter? How do you deal with people who feel your decisions are not fair and who are hurt by it?