May 25, 2017
How to you manage expectations in your organization?
In this episode, learn how to communicate bad news and how to manage risks.
I found this is one of the most difficult skills I had to develop to grow in my career.
Telling the bad news…
Here are some taboos? About communicating bad news:
You should do everything you can to avoid communicating bad news.
Wrong! The earlier you communicate bad news and the earlier manage expectations the more trusted you become.
Hiding bad news is a cultural trait?
I’ve worked in many international projects. In every place, I met people who were afraid to tell things were going bad in their projects.
Hiding bad news is more of a corporate trait, than a cultural trait. It depends on the organization you work for and how your manager is perceptible to listening about problems.
Telling the bad news will expose you to being fired?
You may think that bringing the bad news to surface will put your job into trouble. It may, but if that’s the case, you may want to consider working on an organization that you can more freely discuss the issues you are experiencing in your projects.
Well, there is something about dealing with bad news.
There is this thing:
No one wants to deal with it,
No one wants to talk about it
… and no one wants it to be discovered.
I’ll tell you something:
If you want to make a difference in your organization and grown in your career, you keep the bad news of your project out in the open.
I have some rational behind what I’m saying:
First, every senior executive is expecting some level of bad news along the way.
When they see a project that doesn’t offer any risks or any problems… In the back of the senior management minds, I’m sure they will be thinking about auditing the project.
“Something smells strange here.” They will think. I’m sure. “It’s too good to be true.”
There hasn’t been a single project I have worked on where we didn’t need to deal with bad news.
Well, let’s put this in a simple way. Let me put you on senior management shoes.
You are building a new home for your family and you are choosing between two engineers to manage the work for you:
Which approach of these two approaches do you prefer?
An engineer who is very optimistic, saying:
“Your house is going to be beautiful, it will be done at no time, you will have a beautiful view, your swimming pool will be amazing for the kids…”,
or an engineer who is more realistic, saying:
“Listen! This project is very nice.
However, I have some concerns about where you want to build it.
This is very unstable terrain and chances are you’ll need to dump an extra load of money in your foundation to make sure your home is safe.
Besides, you won’t be able to cut the trees in your backyard to build the swimming pool because the municipality just passed a moratorium on all tree cutting activities in the city.”?
Think about it for a moment.
I’m sure you’ll appreciate the truthfulness of the second engineer
With that information you will understand why things are the way they are.
Why can’t you do it for your own projects?
Why can’t you spell out the risks your project is involving?
If you don’t know there is something bad going on, you can’t do anything about it.
Simple as that, if you discover you have a strange symptom, but keep it to yourself.
You won’t be able to fight it unless you tell someone about it.
You may be able to keep it to yourself…
until it blows up on you…
and then it may be too late.
Do you follow me?
Now, what I’m going to tell you is very important:
The worst things are those that aren’t said.
It is way more difficult to keep something hidden and unspoken than it is to bring things to the surface.
Each one on your team will suffer more by trying to hide the bad news than by bringing it up, acknowledging the problem and collectively trying to find a solution.
That’s how it works, when you don’t surface the bad news.
Things are what they are.
If you get bad news, the first thing you need to do is to acknowledge it.
At first, you may be shocked, but soon you will feel that life moves on and you can do something about it.
There are always going to be difficulties.
There is always going to be something that is not going to happen according to plan.
It is your role to support the team, making sure everyone is focused and motivated.
Teach your entire team to recognize and communicate risks.
Let your people know that they’re welcome to share bad news.
If you are three or four levels up in the org structure, there will be lots of filtering going on and you may not know it.
Make sure everyone who works with you knows they can express their concerns and, most importantly, they should do so.
Tell your team it’s OK to bring things up when they see something that doesn’t seem right.
This is true, even if it comes from the top.
Some employees may feel uneasy bringing things up because of hierarchy or fear of losing their job.
Someone may simply be quiet and not raise an early warning sign thinking,
“But someone very important designed this… who am I to challenge it?”
Let your team know they have a voice,
They can and should raise issues if they feel something looks a fishy.
When something is too good to be true, it probably is.
Find out on your team people who can provide you clear and reliable information.
When you see a report that is overly optimistic, make sure you tell them they should also report risks. Report the bad news!
Ask your team not only for good news, but also bad news.
Remember the story, you don’t want to to build your home on the sand. You want your team to develop a critical view of things.
The most important consideration here is to make sure you have an environment where people can share their mistakes and express their ideas.
You will know sooner or later when things don’t go right.
It’ll be way easier to learn about them at the beginning of the project than one week before your final deadline.
You can bet on it.
Have an awesome day wherever you are in the world.