Give it to me STRAIGHT!

As leaders, we need data and information to make sound decisions. Without them, we are but knee-jerk reactionaries, our direction and focus more resembling a weather vane in the wind than the rock-solid vision necessary for leading others.

So, as we start this new year, let’s decide now that we’ll do everything within our power to have access to that information. For instance: Do you blow up (real or perceived) when your staff brings you really bad news? Shooting the messenger is the pinnacle of foolish; the bad news continues, you simply don’t get it anymore.

The truth is, we should embrace those delivering us bad news. Even if they caused it. we can deal with the performance and behavior later, but right now, the best thing we can hope for is knowledge.

So, what do we say to our folks to prompt such open and forthright discussions? Well, realize first that your words don’t mean squat if your actions portray something else, but here are some suggestions:

1. Tell your staff to always be honest and frank with you, particularly when one-on-one. Having to “ask the right question” to get to an answer is no way to run a railroad. Or a manufacturer. Or a construction company.

2. Make sure they don’t color bad news positively. Present it “naked,” so to speak. As I frequently tell clients, “I’m just going to say this, and probably poorly. Please allow me to clean it up afterward.” You do the same. Unvarnished, bare truth first, pretty, glossy, covers later.

3. They need to know that you want ALL relevant information — good and bad. It’s not “horn-tootin'” to let you know of things that happened as planned; it’s simply informing your boss of relevant status. Both are important.

4. Tell them you want both sides of any story with known conflict. We can’t be interested in a one-sided flow of information; the hallmark of a good senior manager is the ability to see and discuss both sides, even if they personally favor one.

5. Make sure they realize that, if they know the answer, they should say so. Equally, if they don’t know the answer, they shouldn’t wrap it in so much BS that it appears they do.

These are merely suggestions. It’s a new year; time to correct some old “wrongs,” establish some new “rights.” One of those rights should be positive, accurate communications between you and your staffs.

As a friend of mine is so fond pf saying… “This ain’t rocket surgery.”


Kevin Berchelmann

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