Being a leader usually means receiving more bad news than good news—it’s our job to solve problems (when absolutely needed) and also know when to call out wrong news. Here are six tips to keep your cool when bad news inevitably arrives.
- First, sit down with your team members, regardless of level in the organization, and explain the concept of bad news vs. wrong news and the differences. Illustrate types of news that fit into each category. Get everyone on a similar page, using the same vocabulary and consider encouraging a role play sharing both types of news. This exercise alone will measurably decrease the amount of wrong news that comes your way.
- Second, sit down with a few trusted team members and ask them for feedback on how you receive news. Do you celebrate good news? Do you blow up at bad news? Are you overly suspicious and “on the hunt” for wrong news? Be sure to build your self-awareness around not what you think is true, but what people tell you is true, based on your past behaviors.
- Commit to yourself that you will be quiet, calm, and patient when someone brings you bad news. You must model what you talked about in the original meeting. You’re a fraud if you lure people into feeling safe and then eviscerate them. You must make it safe for people to tell you the truth—no matter how bad the news is.
- Remind your team that you need to know about problems as soon as they realize it has passed their own expertise or empowerment to solve. (As a caveat, be careful not to set conditions where your team throws in the towel too soon and counts on you to solve their issues.)
- Remember your leadership values. Are you exercising the maturity to put some space between stimulus and response (the essence of Habit 1 of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)? It’s in this all-important space that you choose your response, carefully, based on your values. This is the most crucial moment of choice for you. Your credibility and reputation can be built or destroyed in that single moment of how you choose to respond to bad news.
- Consider putting some type of item on your desk that will remind you to remain calm, ask clarifying questions and brainstorm with your team member next steps towards resolution. I never drink sparkling water, so I use a Perrier bottle to remind me to stay calm. I notice it because its not part of my normal routine. It’s worked wonders and often saved me from my self!
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