A project team I once coached was commissioned to deliver a quick win for its organization. Executive sponsors and the team came together to celebrate its completion, and part of that session included an accounting of what the team produced. The team produced great results but did not fulfill each of the promises it made to the executive team at the start of the project. As we designed the session, a few team members proposed omitting the elements of the project’s intended outcomes that the team did not deliver.

People don’t like acknowledging what did not get done. You don’t, and the people that report to you don’t either. The reason is we confuse failure to accomplish something we commit to delivering with an indictment on our own abilities. This reality causes real problems for leaders because without a clear understanding of what is and is not getting done, you cannot plan what needs to get done going forward.

Great leaders distinguish themselves as people who guide and provide cover for the people that report to them. While you may never welcome those moments in which you have to account to your company’s Board, you do have the opportunity to set a context for your own team that empowers them to be straight with you about what did and did not get done. Being straight with others, at least empowering your people to be straight with you, gives you the clarity you need to lead your group into the future.

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