All leaders have an inner circle of people they trust, depend upon and feel secure letting their guard down with. It is this inner circle that allows leaders to focus on company growth rather than managing day-to-day operations. In many cases, it’s their inner circle that allows some semblance of life balance. But all other factors pale when it comes to covenant of trust. Trust is the sacred bond that forms the foundation of a dynamic inner circle capable of achieving the extraordinary. Trust is the essence of no-compromise leadership. Trust is everything.
But trust can be compromised. Time, priorities, feelings of entitlement, lack of appreciation and a host of other emotional sensitivities can cause a member of your inner circle to do the unthinkable – deceive and undermine. There is nothing more gut-wrenching than when a leader discovers betrayal by a trusted member of the inner circle. It doesn’t matter if it’s the sharing of confidential conversations or information, or stirring controversy by criticizing leadership decisions and initiatives.
Here are some no-compromise strategies to prevent, identify and work through the “ick” that occurs when your inner circle is compromised:
- Turn off the autopilot: The purpose of turning on autopilot is to not pay attention. When you switch your inner circle to autopilot, you stop paying attention. You stop leading. In his book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Verne Harnish details the importance of fast daily meetings. Five to seven minutes every day, at 8:47 a.m. – without fail. (Verne likes the precise start time. Try it. It works.) Paying attention is essential. When you stop paying attention to what’s important – your inner circle stops paying attention to what’s important.
- Quality time matters even more: It’s a wonderful thing to know that members of your inner circle are taking care of business and helping you carry the load. But those loads can get pretty heavy for individual members. Your leaders need and appreciate a little TLC from you. Showing your appreciation costs nothing and yields wonderfully high returns. You can’t do what you do alone. Make sure those you rely on most know that.
- Subtle signs of indifference: It happens. One of your inner circle may drift and gradually shift from asset to liability. Maybe you contributed. Maybe it’s personal issues. Maybe both. The fact remains that you have a key player in your inner circle who needs help getting back in the game – or help finding a way out. Be aware of the subtle signs of indifference – the “I don’t care – it’s not my job” thinking. Too many leaders choose to ignore these early warning signs when they come from a trusted key player. The best and only strategy is an open, direct and “leave nothing unsaid” conversation that concludes with “next steps.” Ignoring the warning signs is compromise.
- This too shall pass: When a member of your inner circle succumbs to the Dark Side, it can get ugly. Sometimes the deceit and resulting drama can derail an entire company. Intentional and premeditated attempts to do damage to the company, steal, or pirate key employees by one so trusted can be devastating. It’s a life lesson that you grow from. You learn to take the high road of maintaining your respect and integrity. Yes, deep down inside you feel a horrible pain and sense of loss, but these were the decisions of another human being – not yours. This too shall pass. Dust yourself off, get back in the game, and continue your voyage. Your inner circle will reshape into something even more amazing.
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Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership
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