How does bad news flow where you are? I think the handling of the bad news is an interesting test of leadership and organizational health.
- Real leaders get the bad news first. If the boss isn’t the first one a person tells about problems and bad news, then there’s something wrong with that boss. Why is there a delay? What are they afraid of? People instinctively go to a real leader with bad news because they want the leader to know quickly and they expect the leader to come up with the right response.
- Real leaders deliver bad news quickly and well. In many ways that’s a test of leadership. Hiding bad news is rarely a good idea.
- Real leaders take responsibility for bad news. They jump in and collaborate on solutions. Bucks don’t get passed.
I’ve seen this phenomenon for years, in small business and entrepreneurship. I think I see it in larger politics, too.
What do you think?
Are you running a business, or an organization, or a team? For a quick rating of your own leadership, ask yourself these questions about bad news:
- How quickly do you get the bad news? A real leader is the first person to hear bad news. People don’t wait to tell you. They don’t tell each other first. And they certainly don’t hide bad news from you. That happens because they know you want to hear bad news fast; and because you handle it well (see below). That doesn’t mean you’re always on the lookout spotting the bad news first, but it does mean that when anybody in your organization sees bad news, you are the first person they tell.
- How do you respond to bad news? A real leader responds immediately with collaboration that includes the team. You focus on reaction, response, changes required, but not blame. If you react to bad news by establishing blame, you will not be the first person to hear it.
To make this test work, be honest with yourself. If the answers to these two questions seem like bad news, respond to the bad news with change. Change your style, talk to your team, make it clear you want to hear bad news first.
Good news is great, but the bad news is where the management comes in. Bad news is where you look first for what has to change.