I call it “the curtain,” and every company has one. It’s that secret place where leaders stash problems, deficiencies, toxic situations, compromising behaviors, poor business practices, spending habits, procrastination and residue from bad decisions. The sole purpose of the curtain is to conceal what’s not right with a company from employees, customers, peers, vendors and others. What’s behind the curtain is a dark and scary place, a place that saps energy and resources.
While the curtain allows a company to put on its best face by concealing its flaws, sooner or later what’s been festering behind the curtain eventually leaks out. And when big problems get too big to contain, the leaders can throw back the curtain and allow all the “demons” to escape. When the curtain is breached, the company shifts into damage-control mode. Explanations no longer suffice - only decisive leadership action can finally fix what should have been fixed long ago.
One of the most difficult accountabilities of leadership is to resist the temptation to stash -rather than address - what’s wrong. Here are some no-compromise strategies to keep what’s behind your curtain under control:
- There’s nothing “easy” about stashing stuff behind your curtain: When you take the “stash it behind the curtain” option, what you’re stashing never goes away - it just waits while it gets bigger and more complicated. Ask yourself, “Do I want to address this now or deal with a bigger problem tomorrow?” You already know the answer.
- It’s just a curtain - not a bank vault: Just because it’s out of sight, doesn’t mean that stuff can’t escape - or that prying eyes won’t find a way to take a peek. Chances are there’s stuff behind your curtain that could hurt the feelings of those who support and believe in you. So, before you stash anything, know that a leak or peek could compromise relationships and break trust. A Neilism: A compromise today becomes a bigger compromise tomorrow.
- Are you becoming too dependent on your curtain? When too much stuff accumulates behind your curtain, it signals that “accountability avoidance” has become part of your leadership thinking and behavior. It’s a sign that you’re heading down a dark and dangerous leadership path where only bad things happen. Acknowledgement of this means that it’s time to seek the help and guidance of a mentor, coach or trusted advisor.
- Throw open your curtain to let the light in and the truth out: Everyone makes mistakes and decisions that turn out badly. Chances are that those around you already have an idea of what’s behind your curtain. More importantly, your loyal supporters are eager and waiting to step up and help you work through challenges. Keeping stuff behind your curtain is a terrible burden and a tremendous source of physical and mental stress. Better to have the energy and brainpower of your supporters working on solutions than propping up a burned-out leader.
Step back and examine what’s lurking behind your curtain. Fix the small stuff before it becomes big stuff. Confront the big stuff and prove to yourself that you can be the no-compromise leader you deserve to be. And when you’re done, have a private ceremony where you throw your curtain into the fire and bid it farewell.
About: Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies. Since 1993, Strategies has been transforming salon and spa businesses into dynamic, profitable, and sustainable team-based cultures. Neil is a business trainer, coach, keynote speaker and award-winning author. For more information on Neil and Strategies, go to www.strategies.com. You can email Neil at [email protected].