It’s never fun sharing bad news, but it’s always necessary. I think the key to sharing bad news is being proactive. There’s a saying, “share good news fast and bad news faster.” To develop trust in any relationship, you must share the bad news.
People get themselves in bad spots when they try to cover up bad news or try to handle it privately without sharing. That erodes trust between a leader and teams.
Here’s what everyone needs to understand: bad things happen. Not everything goes according to plan. There will be bad news when you’re in a leadership position or any position in life. Be proactive, get in front of it and share it with the appropriate people.
My advice as the leader at Service Express (and as a dad) is don’t let me come after you for the bad news. Also, when you share bad news with me, don’t share just enough and try to get away with only sharing that amount. That doesn’t work well if I have to pull bad news from you. If I sense that there’s more to the story and ask questions to pull it out of you, that’s not a good spot to be in. Whether at work or home, I will start to lean in hard because I want to know what’s happening.
When someone is sharing bad news with me, I want to know what’s going on, and I want to know everything. Then I can step back and get into problem-solving mode. I’ll ask, “how can I help? What can I do?” I think it’s best practice to share bad news this way. It’s always worked better for me, and I use it with others.
Open up and get it all out there. I explain, “Here’s what’s bad. Here’s why it happened. Here’s what I’m going to do about it.” If you’re in business, share how you will start tracking success against it. Proactively sharing bad news is critical in any business or personal relationship.
As a leader or parent, make it safe for your people or children to share bad news with you. It’s not always easy, but take it all in, get a complete understanding and figure out how to help. I still have to watch my reactions sometimes, but my reaction is always better when it’s straightforward, forthright and complete, not when I have to dig after it.
Let me know your advice for sharing bad news and your best practices. We all have to do it, so let’s get better at it!