Future leaders – become great at bad news

Hate bad news. Or, more precisely, I hate giving bad news. No big shocker there. I haven’t met anyone who likes to dole out less-than-favorable news. While nobody likes to dole out the bad news, seemingly fewer of us (!) know how to do it well. Reminds me of the baseball movie Moneyball when Jonah Hill’s character, Peter Brand, is charged with cutting a player. Essentially, Brand is tasked with delivering the definition of bad news. Why was Brand so anxious? Why are any of us anxious about it? Two main reasons. First, I think it’s because we feel bad for the other person who is getting the news. And, we don’t want to be seen as a baddie. Those are the overt reasons. The tertiary reason is a bit more subtle. We don’t know how the other person is going to react, and that uncertainty is scary. They might take it well. They might call us names. They might be relieved. Hard to say, and even harder to prepare for. And because we can’t prepare we are reticent. Alas, future leaders who can stare into the void and provide the bad news with care, empathy, and certainty, in the end, is doing the receiver a service. Let’s make a deal to get past our own discomfort in service of those we have the privilege of leading.

by Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan is the Head Coach at Sandcastle Company, a Seattle-based leadership training organization. His first book, Future Leader: Rebooting Leadership to Win the Millennial and Tech Future [link], is now available. Jonathan regularly writes and speaks about The New Leader Way, leadership resilience, and the future of work. He has years of leadership experience in both the public and private sectors, a master's degree from Seattle University, and professional coach training from the University of Miami.
Published on October 31, 2018

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