Seek First to Understand

Some enduring conflicts in business are caused by structural or systemic issues.  Another large source of these enduring conflicts we encounter in our working lives are conflicts caused by a lack of shared context. In both cases, we can do better if we start the next debate by seeking to gain better context.

Understanding can be a Solution

Like everyone, I get frustrated when some arguments just won’t go away. That frustration is never constructive.  It can cloud my judgement, cause me to miss issues and never helps resolve the debate. No matter how polite I think are my efforts to explain or convince, that frustration will be in the background and the other party can always sense it. We are finely tuned detectors of the emotional states of others. Anyone who senses frustration in someone with whom they are arguing is highly likely to interpret it as a lack of genuine intent, trust or respect.

Often when one of these conversations has gone on a long while it hits me that I don’t really understand what the other person wants. When I shift my focus from convincing them that I am right to seeking to understand their position, a radical change comes over the discussion. Firstly, I often discover some point of context I am missing or that I have misunderstood their position, concerns or their goals. Secondly, we slowly begin to rebuild the trust and respect that has been damaged by the conflict. Both of these are highly useful in finding a joint path to a solution

Often seeking to understand leads to an even more surprising resolution. When conflicts are caused by a lack of a shared context, some times the other party just wants to be heard. They want you to understand the context that you are missing. There might be nothing to do to fix things other than to listen deeply, actively engage their views and acknowledge what you have learned.

Context can show you the System

Seeking to understand is an important first step in the tricky issue of structural or systemic conflicts. These issues arise when parties are trapped in a system that pushes them into conflict, often without either side realising the issue.  Think of your classic clash between organisational silos. Operations are trying to reduce the cost of the process. Sales are trying to increase revenue. Both parties are right in pushing to meet their KPIs. Both feel authorised to fight on,  but the answer is that the organisation needs a balance of the two perspectives. In this context, it is easy for minor issues to become enduring proxy fights of the larger structural issue. I’ve seen teams fight repeatedly over whether error rates were driving cycle times or vice versa when the real issue between them was a need to better align their two businesses.

Changing the conversation to explore a wider context, to explore each party’s goals, concerns and views will help show the wider system at play in these debates.  Opening up this broader conversation is how leaders can identify often hidden issues like culture clashes, misalignment of incentives or parts of the system working with unintended consequences.

It takes only a few minutes to ask a few questions to ensure you truly understand what the other party is seeking to achieve. The insights from that quest for understand will benefit both of you.


Every Day Work Creates Every Day Trust.



Effective collaboration in your organisation depends on trust. The best way to build trust in your organisation is through collaborative work.

Trust is a consistent theme of this blog because it is fundamental to effective performance in organisations and social relationships. However, we mostly take it for granted and organisations often go out of their way to remind employees that they are not trusted and should not place their trust in the organisation.

Trust in the Work

One commenter on my recent post on collaboration and every day work suggested I was missing the need for trust to support collaboration. My response was that trust comes through actions and interactions.  Organisations often talk about trust as an abstract and something that can be worked on itself.

The reality of most trust building activities is that they create no trust unless they are connected to the fundamental interactions of the organisation. Trust is a manifestation of the expectations of interactions in the organisation, i.e. culture. Trust is human. All the fancy trust building exercises will fail if people believe the real interactions that support the work will occur differently.

Founding trust in and around the work to be done is important. Collaboration can deliver this new foundation for trust.  Transparency helps employees better understand what is going on in the organisation.  Networks leverage that transparency to deliver new accountability to help people have confidence in the work of others. Collaboration networks better enable employees to judge the intentions and capability of others based on the past performance in public interactions with others. Each of these interactions fosters a better level of understanding of the potential for trust.

Most importantly of all, collaboration networks can increase the interactions and the experience of generosity between employees. We all find it hard to trust strangers. Sharing a social network enables people to develop a deeper understanding of all of their peers not just those in their own teams.

Organisations that want to increase the level of trust between employees can benefit from focus on encouraging employees to work out loud and seeking opportunities for collaboration in their everyday work.

Get Out of the Way

Organisations also need to take care that they send signals that reinforce the value of collaboration and trust in every day work. Treat collaboration as inherently risky and you will discourage your employees from participating, trusting their colleagues and trusting the organisation.

When collaboration technology enables new interactions in an organisation, it can be easy to identify all the new risks that can be created. The traditional corporate approach to risk is risk elimination. Why not turn off the solution or the feature that creates the risk so that there’s no exposure to one poor decision by an employee. However, to avoid a rare event, this approach either excludes collaboration opportunities from the organisation or signals to employees that they cannot be trusted.

A better management of those risks is to place accountability on employees to manage the risks, both for themselves and others. That is a signal of trust in your employees and your willingness to make them responsible for a better workplace. That’s usually how you manage those risks outside collaboration technology where you have less control over what employees say and do anyway. Treating collaboration technology as specially unsafe is a bad signal for trust and ignores the opportunity to teach employees to the benefit of all the work.

This last point is significant. Trust, collaboration, agency and agility that you grow in your collaboration platform doesn’t stay there. Each of these capabilities are based in our human characteristics and follow wherever your employees go. They spread through the whole organisation. Manage trust well in the collaboration of every day work and the whole organisation will benefit.

Trust is Precious


One of the challenges is the modern economy and its new far-flung connectedness is that there can be a tendency to presume trust in relationships. We need to be clear that trust is a vital part of our commercial and social activities. The role of leaders is to help create, sustain and grow trust in their networks and communities.

Trust Arrives on a Tortoise and Leaves on a Horse – Proverb

I start with a high degree of trust in people. I always presume a positive intent and I am willing to be generous with my time and efforts. A recent experience caused me to reflect on how important that trust is in a relationship and how we need to continue to invest in building trust in our relationships.

An social network acquaintance asked me many months ago to help their new product by letting them use some of my content. I laid out some simple terms of that use, in particular that they take some actions to let me approve the content in context. Nothing happened for months. Suddenly, last week I was told that the product was going live. My trust in my acquaintance collapsed and our relationship became very difficult quickly.

Without trust, the interactions took on different colour for both parties and matters became tense. Everything eventually fell apart. What had begun as a good natured collaboration ended up as a frustrating and angry experience in the absence of trust. Did I overreact? My acquaintance seemed to think so. However, the simple step of acting promptly on an agreement could have maintained trust and avoided the issue. Failure on a relatively small issue can often have the biggest impact on trust, because we want to trust those who look treat the small things seriously too. What is a small thing to you, may well be critical to me. Little doubts are warnings of larger concerns.

Trust in the API Economy

We have grown used to the API Economy, extending trust to remote connections and even starting to leverage trustless ways of interacting and working. In this context, we can forget the vital role that trust plays in frictionless commerce and interactions.  Without trust, costs and the emotional burden of interactions increase.  Those additional costs might be the costs of coordination, management of performance, sharing of information, monitoring or verification. The emotional toll of lack of trust is seen in interactions coloured by doubt, suspicion, self-centred thinking and a raft of negative emotions from fear to anger. We can absolutely execute standardised transactions without trust, particularly when they are supported by a robust API-like platform to help manage the quality, transparency, accountabilities and risks required.  However, we cannot achieve our best complex, collaborative or creative work together without trust. The costs of lack of trust are too high and the potential opportunities are lost as people focus on self-interest and self-preservation.

APIs are just like my reaction to a change in the terms. An API rejects anything that doesn’t meet the agreed parameters. APIs are not designed for flexibility, novelty or agility. They are designed for seamless transaction. They don’t rely on trust to bridge gaps as things change.

As we focus more of our economic and social relationships into the API Economy and its network of platforms, it is important to remember that trust always resides in the human brain. Platforms can provide tools to support human trust and they can provide proxies for human trust.  They cannot deliver it.  The role of network participants and in particular leaders is to create, foster and develop trust. This work is what helps turn a network into a community.  Leaders play a critical role in making trust an expectation in a network and their work influencing others can shape behaviours and their consequences across the network.


The Essential Ingredient is Trust

When we think about our organisations we often fail to notice the essential role of trust. Trust enables or disables our work, structures, or processes. As we move more into the future of the network economy we need to make trust explicit again.

What We Don’t See

We forget about trust because the process of trust is second nature to us.  Trust is deeply engrained in the way we manage relationships, transactions and exchanges.  This role of trust makes it critical to the way we organise our work, the way we exchange information and the decisions we make. Any organisation that is not explicitly managing the level of trust in the organisation and with its stakeholders is losing value.

Trust plays an outsized role in my work. Customers pay a premium when they trust an organisation. That customer trust is directly related to the internal trust relationships inside an organisation. They won’t give an organisation greater trust than its own employees. When Change Agents Worldwide wrote its first book, my chapter was on the need for organisations to trust their employees to enable the benefits of the future of work.  A critical underpinning of the Value Maturity Model is its ability to develop the mutual trust in organisations that facilitates effective collaboration and supports execution of strategy. Trust is key to any complex and uncertain challenge in leadership, learning or innovation.

What We Work Around

Much of business history back to the beginnings of time has been managing trust.  Ancient businesses of the Phonecians and Greeks, operating in the era of an absence of information used family relationships to ensure trust. Over time businesses built processes to enable wider networks of trust in trade, in banking, in record keeping and in management of businesses. Our organisations are built of thousands of individual interventions to manage trust in relationships.

Organisations are often tempted to see the goal as creating a trustless environment.  Build the processes & structures such that you no longer care. Blockchain promises a trustless ledger for example. The gig economy promises to make employees fungible units of production where trust in the individual is irrelevant. We trust platforms, not people. We undoubtedly can continue to build more transparency, processes & accountability to extend work relationships further down the curve of trust.

The Cost of Trust

When we engineer trust out of our relationships, it does not go away. We continue to evaluate trust in our work because that instinct is a deeply human one. When we engineer trust out of our relationships, we accept a new set of stresses and new set of demands on performance.

  • We worry about the effectiveness of our trust-replacement solutions. We stress about the quality of our human relationships. Absence of trust is a high stress situation for humans.
  • We over-invest in these systems and bear an unnecessarily high cost to performance.  Look at any compliance regimes where risk avoidance dominates thinking.
  • We are reticent to share information which results in suboptimal decision making
  • Those who don’t receive trust, don’t give it. Trust is reciprocal and an absence of trust in one direction will result in customers, employees and other stakeholders who don’t trust.

Organisations that want to perform effectively in the future of the work cannot place all their faith in processes, structures and platforms to manage trust for them. They need to remember the human relationships of trust. Create and manage an organisational culture that is rich and generous with its trust.

Two Paths to Trust

There are two paths to trust. The first is a path of ease, sameness and stability. The more sustainable path is the more challenging, the path of understanding.

In corporate life, I occasionally met a manager who had a team. Whatever role they took on, they brought with them the core of a team from their previous role. In some cases the managers and teams had been working together for years through multiple roles and organisations. What these teams gained in effectiveness through long relationships, they lost more in new ideas and inability to change their relationships.  In many cases the junior partners in these teams were being held back to burnish the glory of their bosses.

Trust with people who are the same as you is far easier. When you begin with little diversity in the team, there are fewer conflicts to iron out. The differences is worldview, style and approach are narrower. There are less likely to be shocks and patterns of decisions are easily implemented based on a shared history. Teams like these exist across the business world and they have advantages in the speed with which they come together. We are psychologically predisposed to recruit people just like us.

However, teams without diversity underperform. Study after study suggests that greater diversity improves team and organisational performance. One key reasons is because diversity gives rise to great bases for conflict. Ideas are less likely to be accepted. People challenge the applicability of patterns and history. There are more inputs available and people are more aware of the diversity of circumstances around their organisation. More time must be invested in debate and understanding. Better decisions result. Importantly, when team members are not just a mini me, their individual needs and potential can be considered.  Team members have the opportunity to realise their potential.

Creating high levels of trust in a diverse team is more challenging. It takes effort, conflicts and richer understanding of each individual.  Any team is better for that effort.

Relationship Sabotage

Trust is a reciprocal commodity in the future of work. Trust powers collaboration and facilitates exchange in networks. Trust is also reciprocal. Make sure your levels of trust of others are not sabotaging your relationships.

Part of any decision to trust another is an assessment of how they treat us. Trust is reciprocal. We can make finely tuned assessments on how much trust others put in us by simply examining how we interact, how well their goals are aligned to ours and how much reciprocity of trust we experience.

If you start from the assumption that your employees and customers are incipient criminals, it will show itself in your policies and processes. The levels of security and inconvenience that result will be a constant reminder to customers and employees that you don’t trust them.  Even if your levels of protection are in line with your industry peers, you will still bear the consequences of that action in the way your customers and your employees interact with you. Transactions will be more costly, loyalty will be lower and complaints & errors will be harder to resolve because you won’t have the benefit of trust to fall back on.

Are your levels of trust set for the real risks and opportunities in your relationships? Make sure you are not penalising everyone for one individual’s error. Remember if you distrust employees that will flow on to customers and if you distrust customers you employees will experience the consequences. Your customer and employee experience are one experience.

Too many organisations with persistent challenges in lifting engagement or customer advocacy continue to sabotage their key relationship. Make sure you are different. Trust a little more.

Micromanagement & Autonomy

One consequence of better communication is little discussed. Better communication has enabled the school of management that micromanages employees. We would do better to use our communication technologies to enable our employees to realise their potential.

Management in the Dark

We are starting to forget what the world was like before pervasive communication. Read about the beginnings of our modern organisations in the 19th century and you are always surprised to consider the barriers communication presented. 

The flipside of the barriers to communication also meant that managers had autonomy. Before the railroad and the telegraph, you didn’t need to be very far away at all to be required to manage your branch, factory or location with complete autonomy. All the decisions required to run a business like hiring, sourcing, pricing, distribution, financing and distributing profits, were managed by local managers. There were no alternatives. There was simply no way to seek guidance in time for most of the decisions required to succeed in the market. The need to trust a manager in these circumstances meant that many corporations relied on family members, trusted associates or had real limits to their scale.

Global Micromanagement

Enhanced communication technology has enabled organisations to manage their business on a global scale. The two-way flow of information has enabled trust to develop in the use of cadres of independent managers. It has also allowed those with less trust in their managers to micromanage on a scale that has never before been possible.

Look at the marketing materials for big data and HR analytics offerings. Many of these solutions are promoted as ways to know more about your business and the actions of your employees than ever before. The ‘golden goose’ school of management then dictates that you tightly manage your employees leveraging the rivers of data, the ability to adjust process controls and to communicate in real time. These communications are increasingly mechanistic and some even claiming value in automating them. Increased efficiency of your employees is the goal. However, that efficiency represents a massive trade-off in effectiveness of employees and the organisation.

Better Understanding, Alignment and Trust

Once again organisations are facing the need to drive autonomy of employees. Because of the pace of our economies driven by modern communication technology, we have arrived again at a point where autonomy is required. In the past, communication was too slow to meet a competitive local market. Now communication in the competitive global market is too fast. Employees can’t anymore wait for advice from head-office or be constrained by a policy that no longer refects circumstances.

We need to recognise that the alternate opportunity of better communication is better understanding, better trust and better alignment. With better connection, we can enable people to achieve exponentially better performance because we have the foundations of trust. If we chose a human approach over a mechanistic one, we can leverage the many human talents of our people. That diversity has far greater value than relying on only the decisions of an all-powerful all-seeing management team.

Global communication technologies have made learning the competitive advantage in the modern organisations. Now that they also allow a massive scale increase in understanding and trust, why wouldn’t we want to involve all our people in leveraging their insights, talents and knowledge?

The future of work is not better micromanagement. The future of work is how we better realising human potential. That will take trust and human connection.

The algorithm for trust is human #futureofwork

We don’t need more algorithms to help us manage trust. The human brain is a finely tuned trust algorithm. Let’s focus on building trust, not proxies for trust.

The proxy for trust

Global connection and scale are routinely proposed as a rationale for new services to help us manage trust. Inspired by the success of rating systems in EBay, Uber and similar services, entrepreneurs continually propose new universal solutions to help manage trust.

Humans are actually very good in managing trust. Our built-in systems for assessing trustworthiness are pretty good. We can assess the trust worthiness of a person in their available social data pretty quickly. We can adapt that assessment in real time based on the actions of others. We use this trust assessment to determine our decisions.

The human trust algorithm isn’t perfect. Psychology, economics, manipulators, and criminals all can describe the flaws, but they are far more subtle and accurate than any five point scale. We don’t need a rating to discount an email from a Nigerian prince we’ve never met.

Rating systems are only a proxy.

The value of the ratings in EBay, Uber and other systems is that they act as a proxy for trust in otherwise low information frictionless systems. They don’t prevent issues, but they reduce recurrence because there are penalties within that system.

Rating systems that aren’t tied to a process or system are popularity contests and distorted by the best and worst of human social behaviour like social proof, bandwagon effects, abuse, etc. They don’t relate to human experiences of trustworthiness through interactions. The failure of Linkedin’s endorsements feature is an example of how ratings without consequences produce junk.

Even if an entrepreneur develops an elaborate effective trust system, few humans will cede their decision making to that rating. The trust rating will just be one proxy in a human decision using the human algorithm. Anyone who ceded their decisions to an algorithm would be exposed to exploitation by a simple hack of that algorithm.

Stop rating. Start Building Trust.

Trust is critical to the pace and effectiveness of modern commerce and organisations. However few organisations focus explicitly on how to build deeper trust within and outside their organisations. Let’s focus our investment there and not on 5 point systems. That investment will take human actions, interactions and decisions. This is one critical way we can help make the future of work more human.

Leadership in Transformation

A common topic of debate in the Responsive Organization movement is whether an organization can become responsive or it must be born that way.

Undoubtedly many of the leading case studies of future of work organizations are organizations created or rebirthed from near death by charismatic founders. Some use this as evidence that the elements of a responsive organization must be present from the beginning. In a previous post, I pointed out that we cannot rely on transparency alone to make change occur for us. The power structures in a traditional organisation will prevent most radical change.

I am unambiguously in the optimist camp. I am not alone and the company in the optimist camp inspires me. I have seen organizations change enough to not recognise their former selves. Change to more responsive ways of working is possible. The question is how.

What gets in the way

Chris Argyris’ classic article Teaching Smart People to Learn is a rich source of observations of what gets in the way of a Responsive Organization transformation.  In particular, Argyris notes that:

… There seems to be a universal human tendency to design one’s actions consistently according to four basic values:

1. To remain in unilateral control;

2. To maximize “winning” and minimize “losing”;

3. To suppress negative feelings; and

4. To be as “rational” as possible—by which people mean defining clear objectives and evaluating their behavior in terms of whether or not they have achieved them.

The purpose of all these values is to avoid embarrassment or threat, feeling vulnerable or incompetent. In this respect, the master program that most people use is profoundly defensive. Defensive reasoning encourages individuals to keep private the premises, inferences, and conclusions that shape their behavior and to avoid testing them in a truly independent, objective fashion.

These hidden values in most organisation get in the way of the transparency-led transformation that many hope to see. The Responsive Organization poses a threat to control, a threat of losing and negative feelings. Importantly the delegation of authority in a Responsive Organization may cause people anxiety as to objectives and rationale for action.

The role of leadership is to act as a counterbalance these natural human values and shift the behaviours to that of a Responsive Organization. We need to create rationales for action more powerful than embarrassment. We need to create community to generate trust, support and connection. We need to enable learning through conflict and experimentation. 


Leaders must create a strong rationale for the transformation. In cases of crisis, startup or near death of organizations, this rationale can often be imposed by a charismatic individual. The external circumstances enable a threat based narrative to bind people together in a defensive rationale for change.

However, most organizations are successful to their own terms. As Argyris notes, we want to feel successful even if our results don’t pass external muster.  

Leaders need to leverage two elements to create a strong rationale for change in this context:  

  • The Purpose of the organization: a purpose is the ultimate rationale for why people come together in an endeavour. It defines the common impact the group of people wish to have on the world.  As a higher agenda, it is the perfect rationale for change for even the most successful organisations.  Purpose is a mastery quest. Very few organizations have the capability to completely fulfil their purpose. They can however strive to better realise it.
  • External orientation: No closed system will find a rationale for change. External orientation is where organizations find the challenges and opportunities that define the purpose into specific improvement opportunities. Leaders need to relentlessly focus the organization on its customers and community to see transparently the challenges and opportunities that exist for change. Well defined external impacts in this community will be what can drive the autonomy of teams in the organization.  Using customer and community data in line with Purpose, also enables change agents to overcome embarrassment-based resistance in the organization.


Individuals will need support to take on the risks of a Responsive Organization. The role of leaders is to create the sense of community that will support an individual through that change. At the heart of that community will be engagement with others and a growing sense of mutual trust.  Leaders set the tone for any community. They must also work hard to reinforce these key community behaviours

  • Engagement: Engagement begins with transparency and connection. I cannot truly care about the others in my community until I know who they are and understand their purposes, concerns and circumstances. Leaders need to create the conditions to enable people to be more social, to connect, to solve and to share their work challenges together.
  • Trust: Engagement will build trust as it builds understanding. Transparency will reinforce trust. However, leaders need to take on the role of fostering responsibility and accountability as engines of growing trust in the organization.  When people see that individuals and teams are accountable for driving change then they will have greater trust in the change agenda.


This post is deliberately not titled like a listicle e.g. ’The 3 or 6 things to transform an organisation’. Even a basic familiarity with change highlights that formulas will work only up to a point. Leadership needs to be adaptive to enable any system to change in a sustainable way.

To be true to their purpose and stakeholders, to leverage the potential of their community, each organization will take an unique path through change.  The role of leaders is facilitate the individual and organizational learning required:

  • Experimentation: creating a culture of rapid iteration to address challenges and opportunities will accelerate the cycle of learning in the organization. Leaders must help this experimentation culture to overcome the resistance identified by Argyris and also to spread and have a wider influence in the organization. Lessons learned must become new truths which will take a sense-making role for leaders in the wider organization and mean leaders must champion new ways of working when they arise, whatever the personal costs.
  • Conflict: The biggest reason that organizational transformations fail is an unwillingness of the leadership of the organisation to allow uncertainty and conflict. Conflict will happen. The uncertainty associated with conflict is inevitable. Efforts to suppress this will either undermine transparency, the rationale for change, engagement or learning. Failure to embrace conflict takes many names: politeness, bureaucracy, politics, corporate speak, history, culture, etc. Failure to embrace conflict is an unwillingness to learn and improve. There will always be resistance when change comes and it must be addressed. Leaders need to create and sustain the right kinds of constructive conflict – driven by purpose, based in facts from an external orientation & experimentation, mediated through an engaged community. 

Change is Coming. Lead.

I have seen the potential of purpose, external orientation, engagement, trust experimentation and conflict to drive change. Supported by leadership these are the elements of each organization’s transformation. These elements are critical to a Responsive Organization.

Throughout this post I have referred to leaders and leadership. This need not be hierarchical leadership. Clearly it helps if leadership and power are aligned in an organization in reinforcing the need for change. However, the changes described above are not capable of being implemented by top-down edicts. These changes must come as individuals and groups discover their power and are influenced as a result, This kind of leadership relies on influence and can begin bottom up or even from the middle management so often scorned in organizations.

Change is possible. Change is coming. Smart people can learn. Your people and your organisation can better realise their potential and their purpose. A Responsive Organization transformation will occur if you are prepared to lead the change.


No Fine Print in Leadership


Stuck at the lights next to this car insurance billboard I had occasion to read the fine print. The fine print, which is illegible in the photo, explained:

  • That the actor in the photo is not the identified customer
  • That the saving may not be replicated in another customer situation
  • That standard underwriting terms and conditions apply i.e. the insurance may not be available to a customer
  • That the car insurance is not provided by Coles but by Wesfarmers Insurance, the underwriter
  • That a customer should read the product disclosure statement to determine whether the insurance is right for them.

Lawyers will have demanded these disclaimers to make the messages safe and to rule out risk. No marketer ever wanted a disclaimer on an ad. As a result of this legally required list of disclaimers the proposition of the billboard is solidly undermined, if anyone ever reads them. No wonder the print is hard to read from a distance.

Don’t Rely on Fine Print in Leadership

Noble intentions in leadership are often undermined by the safety of fine print. Some leaders communicate with hidden disclaimers:

  • I want this team to be open and honest* (*until there is uncomfortable conflict, particularly with me)
  • I am not hierarchical* (*until it involves my status)
  • My focus is success of the team* (*until I’m told otherwise)
  • We need to be more innovative* (*as long as it is guaranteed to succeed)
  • We need to engage all our stakeholders* (*until I have a view)
  • We need to move faster and be more agile* (*until it is my decision)

Like the ad above, these disclaimers undermine if not subvert the message of the leader. Many of these leaders genuinely mean these statements when they are made. Their intentions and desire to change are noble. For others, these are just the kinds of statements that leaders make. They are leadership platitudes.

However change takes more than the safety of good intentions or platitudes. Change needs people to stick out the hard times. Leaders who opt for disclaimers take the safe route.  Often, they just failed to think their comments through and were surprised by the hard decisions that they entail.  By failing to reconcile their statements with likely eventualities or their own personal reactions when particular situations arise, they end up escaping through the silent disclaimer when things get tough.

Leaders need to understand that their public statements are seen by their teams as commitments. There is no division of ‘core and non-core’ promises. These are not indications of present intent subject to disclaimers. They are commitments to other people who need to rely on them to manage their uncertainty, trust & support to go through change. With this focus, it pays to think through the commitments and to accept that delivering against those commitments made will be hard and involve challenges.

If you are going to say it, be prepared to back it up. Leadership is hard work and means taking risk. Leave the safety of disclaimers to the lawyers.