What Great Leaders Do to Share Bad News

by Dr. Rick Goodman on October 30, 2017

Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news—and when you’re a team leader, delivering grim tidings can be especially difficult. After all, bad news about the state of the company—or about an error you’ve made—can have a direct impact on the morale of your employees, on the solidity of the company, and even on their employment status.

So whether you’re fessing up to a big fumble or letting someone know of a pending layoff, it’s worth knowing how to deliver bad news well. Here are some tips you can follow.

How Great Leaders Deliver Unwelcome News

Don’t Lead with an Apology

“I’m sorry, but…” is never a good way to start bad news. It may seem like it will make you appear empathetic, but actually, it makes you look weak and uncaring—like you could or should be doing something to prevent this bad thing from happening, but all you can muster is a rote apology. Skip the apology—or at least, save it until a more appropriate time—and get straight to the news itself.

Don’t Be Cursory or Flippant

Another bad way to begin bad news? “Well, since I have you here…” If you’re sharing news that come impact people’s lives and livelihoods, you don’t want to come across like it’s incidental. Plan a time to sit down and talk; give some heads-up that you’ve got news to share.

Don’t Beat Around the Bush

It’s always best to get right to the point. Overloading your audience with background information or unnecessary lead-up makes it seem like you’re nervous about sharing the news itself—and that puts people on edge. More to the point: It undermines your authority.

Don’t Lie

If you’re asked to provide facts, provide them. Don’t tell people you don’t know the answers to their questions unless you truly don’t. This is definitely a case where honesty and transparency are the best policies.

Don’t Be Ill-Prepared

Finally, make sure you spend some time thinking about what you’re going to say before you say it; trying to riff or improvise your way through bad news is the surest way to stumble into some of these other issues I’ve brought up.

Leadership is critical during difficult days or challenging seasons. When you have bad news to deliver, make sure you rise to the occasion.

Dr. Rick Goodman CSP is a thought leader in the world of leadership and one of the most sought after conference keynote speakers on leadership, engagement, and business growth in the United States and internationally.

He is the author of the books Living A Championship Life “A Game Plan for Success” and My Team Sucked “10 Rules That Turned Them Into Rock Stars.” He is also the co-author of the book Jamie’s Journey: Travels with My Dad, written with his sixteen-year-old daughter Jamie.

Dr. Rick is famous for helping organizations, corporations, and individuals with systems, strategies, and solutions that encourage engagement, resulting in increased profits and productivity without having the challenges of micromanaging the process. Some of Dr. Rick’s clients include Heineken, AT&T, Boeing, Cavium Networks, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and Franklin Templeton Investments.

You can contact Dr. Rick at www.rickgoodman.com or call 888-267-6098.

Dr. Rick GoodmanWhat Great Leaders Do to Share Bad News