Leaders and Spin

Living in the US, I am currently inundated with the political spin that has become a major part of presidential campaigns.  It got me thinking about how much spin we see in the work place as well.  It seems that “spinning” has become very common place in today’s world. Spin has become synonymous with making something look better than it is by lying.  So is “spin” ever a good thing in a business setting?

If a leader is spinning facts to cover up problems, misconduct or defects then no spin is not ever acceptable.  When spin is used to place blame it’s has a negative impact on the organization.  So many of the business scandals of recent years show that leaders were busy creating a spin to look like they were not at fault for what was going wrong in their world.  Time has a way of bringing the truth to light, so these spin doctors were found out and in some cases they did jail time for their efforts.  This is the extreme use of spin.

However, we see spin in minor ways every day.  Someone is late with a report or project and their reason for the delay is beyond their control.  This may be spin or it may be fact.  If they didn’t follow-up closely to ensure timely results shifting the blame is spin.  If they really did do everything in their power to get it done and yet could not get a vital piece, the reason is fact.  It takes a solid understanding of what is going on with that person and the organization to understand when the report of a negative result is being spun. 

At times we see spin used to excite people towards action.  Again, this can be bad in many ways.  Yet, there are times in business that a positive spin is used to help the team feel good about what they have accomplished and keep the focus on the positive.  Spin can be used to share the credit just as easily as it is to place blame.  When a manager gives credit to a person or the team for a great idea there may be some spin going on to elevate the contribution.  However, when done to keep people engaged, it’s sincere in its praise and the intent is to encourage innovation/involvement then the spin has positive impact on the organization.  If there is any insincerity or any lies behind the praise, it will be seen as “spin” and become discredited. 

As a leader, manager, boss or just an employee how you report results will go a long way to building your creditability and your trustworthiness.  If you tend to spin things to look more positive than they are or to shift blame away from you, your integrity will be questioned.  If you are someone who tells it like it is, good, bad or indifferent then people will trust your word and believe in your work.  If you are honest in what you say, then sharing credit will be seen as sincere and will build your reputation as a good leader.  There are times when you are telling the story in the most positive light, which could be seen as spin if you are not careful.   

Stick to the truth and be upbeat about the good things that happen around you.  Stay away from placing blame on others.  Accept and admit faults when due.  These will tell the story that you act with integrity and are a leader not a spin doctor.

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