Good Leadership Knows How to Communicate the Good, Bad and Ugly in 4 Easy Steps.

At the beginning and end of any day of business, your team wants to be told the truth.

Do you believe it?

Now if you answered that question like most leaders do, you answered it with a Yes. So then, if your team wants the truth, why is it that the average leader has such a hard time telling it?

Do I have your attention?

Over the years of working with teams from Government to Manufacturing to Corporate Enterprise the average leader will creatively avoid telling the members of their team the truth about the status of the business–At all costs.

Why is that you may be wondering? Or you are yelling at me from your office chair. But from my experience coaching many leaders in navigating the waters with their teams during critical business times, they often painstakingly struggle with confronting truth. Not because they are afraid of the truth, but because they are afraid of the reaction to the truth.

Most people enjoy telling good news. And just the same most of us enjoy hearing it. However as with most things, the good days and good news can seem littered in with the not so good. And that’s when our people want to hear even more about how ‘we are all doing’ on the team.

Good leaders know when to share the positive and how to share the negative.

Because not all of our days are filled with sunshine and popsicles in the big world of team leadership, we have to be ever present in tempering the reality for our team. Not to take them off course from the target, but to keep them from stalling out on us before we hit it.

One leadership team I worked with during an offsite retreat to discuss downsizing discovered the ripple effect of under communication was far greater than imagined. In an attempt to not let the Cat out of the proverbial bag too soon about the status of staffing, they found they were withholding too much information. This, in turn, caused their people to spend much of their day speculating (with each other) and not focusing on serving clients.

What happened to this team of leaders was actually quite common. They stopped listening. They weren’t able to hear the mumbling from their people and the notes of fear and doubt that were coming through the messages. As a result they stopped talking  because they felt that if no one ‘knew anything’ they could just hold out till the plan was in place.

Unfortunately, that plan backfired. Ultimately causing a lot of frenzied activity to put peace back in the organization, calm customer fears and at the same time they had to share some really tough news. Sadly, their people felt violated and lied to, which are perhaps two of the most difficult to overcome as a leader.

You see, our people are listening. They are watching. And if you aren’t communicating to them, they are going to make it up for themselves. They are even going to share it with your customers/clients. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

So, what then can you do to combat this type of challenge for your team? How do you learn to share with your people in a way that supports everyone? It is actually really not that difficult and you can get there in 4 easy to follow steps.

  1. Don’t Be Shy. Your people are not going to bite, talk to them about what is on the horizon. Share with them in a consistent manner what is the status of the business. The key is to be consistent with your communications to your team. When too much time passes between dialogue, even in written form, the water-cooler becomes the popular destination in the office.
  2. Don’t blow smoke where it doesn’t belong. Speak the truth and they will receive it. Your team will light you up if you are not authentic with your communication. So show them and you respect by speaking the truth.
  3. Hang out at the Water-Cooler. Go to the places your people are hanging out. Sit with them and learn from them. Allow them to ask you questions. This will help to deepen your communication with them. When or should the time come that you need to share some tough news, the sharing will be a bit easier because you will know to use their terms – they will feel heard.
  4. Be Proactive. I advise leaders all the time to be the first out of the gate when it comes to communicating. You are modeling the way for how you want your team to communicate with you. Showing them that you are forthcoming helps them to understand the importance of being the same way with you should a situation arise. Our tendency is to wait, I say be upfront and you will all gain the advantage.

What has your experience been with communicating the good, bad and ugly side of a story? What ways have you seen to be successful for your team?