Putting The Welcome Mat Out For Bad News
who do more than claim an “
-door policy” will be more likely to have bad news—
information—brought directly to them instead of having to dig for it or,
, learning about it too late. If you are
by people who cannot or will not tell you the hard truth, check yourself. Are you making it clear that you expect bad news to be communicated? Are you creating a safe zone for it?
Mike Harreld, the previously mentioned Southern Company executive, has learned that as leaders are promoted higher and higher within an organization, the harder it becomes for them to get people to bring them bad news. “Most want to make you feel good and kiss up,” Harreld said. After 20 years with Southern Company Services and now one of its top leaders, Harreld says that he looks for people he can depend on to give him the tough information, and he “picks at them.” He asks them questions: “Anything I need to know about?” “What do you think about this?” “How do you think this is going?” “And then you shut up and listen,” Harreld said, adding that leaders should never, never shoot the messenger and never
defensively. “It took me
to learn how not to [be defensive],” he said. “But I had to learn, because I need information from people.”
To ensure that you
fully informed about problems that may affect your success or issues that require resolution, create a transparent culture within your team or organization that makes delivering bad news simply part of doing business. Consider these strategies:
Make it part of the drill.
As part of every new strategy, policy, or analysis,
’s advocate” or a worst case-scenario team. This helps make bad news
and even sought after.
Do not respond to “kissing up” behavior.
If you visibly reward people when they tell you what they think you want to hear instead of what you want to know, you devalue bad news.
Or at least do away with canned presentations at internal meetings that are
informed of the company’s progress. You do not want to give the
that real information is being “ prettied up,” filtered, or massaged.
When people bring you bad news, thank them for doing so, and recognize their courage. If the news made a difference in some way, let people know.
Now do something.
You have been told the bad and the ugly. So now what? If you make a habit of not responding to bad news that is delivered to your doorstep—even only by acknowledgment—people eventually will not see the use.
Being Transparent In Tough Situations
Being forthcoming with bad news—whether
information about policy changes or reorganization or constructive criticism that may be upsetting to an individual— and building a transparent culture that makes bad news safe are essential in
and keeping a credible reputation. And being
to bad news can help an organization stay on track and use all its resources.
tough situations that require you to talk openly with your followers? Do you choose expediency over
communication that honors your followers? Do you
others to bring you bad news?
During skittish economic times
, leaders should not hide; they should be front and center, allaying fears by keeping the team well informed. With employee performance concerns,
are expected to act swiftly, helping their followers improve or dealing with weak links in the
. And always, credible leaders must deliver bad news with respect,
, and care.