"It's Good to Be the Bad Guy"
Your Success Thought for the Week of September 5, 2007

A leader knows that they have matured into the role when he or she can deliver bad news in a quick and effective manner, doing little damage, and in fact inspiring positive action. This takes savoir-faire.

We all have hard news to convey from time to time. How we do it is oftentimes remembered even more than the message itself. We can sting, educate or enthuse with the same message.

CNN ran a story over this past weekend on 'Bad Bosses,' discussing how few people learn to deal with the power of being in a 'boss' as they climb the ladder to success. They told stories of employees suing their bosses and painted a pretty bleak picture.

Having worked with hundreds of leaders who truly do want to make a difference in doing their very best for their employees and company, my experience is quite different. The challenge is that not all individuals who are promoted to leadership positions are given the tools to do their new job.

Those who succeed in leadership positions know that they are in a sandwich position. They will always have someone above them stating their expectations and those below them who they need to motivate, protect, discipline and inspire all a the same time.

When speaking of stating their expectations or delivering hard news, leaders often tell me: "I don't want to be the bad guy." To which I reply: "If you really were the bad guy, you wouldn't worry about it. The fact that you do, shows how much you truly care."

Here are six keys to successfully communicating hard news in a manner that will inspire, not offend:

  1. Know what you want; clearly state your specific expectations of this employee.
  2. Begin with questions. The staff member may be one step ahead of you waiting for this discussion, and may save you the agony of correcting their actions.
  3. Know and mirror this person's communication style. If they are bottom line, be bottom line. If they need more information or time to digest, provide both.
  4. Respectfully tell the truth (no sugar coating if possible.)
  5. Lead and end with something positive. They'll remember the hard stuff; give them something else to focus upon as well.
  6. Make sure that your point is being both heard and understood. Oftentimes, the only message that gets across is: "I messed up; I'm not good enough. I'm going to get fired." Ask them what they are hearing, and what specific steps they'll take as a result of this discussion. Watch their body language closely.

If you worry too much about being the 'bad guy' when delivering hard news, you may never get there. Procrastination is a killer to effective communication as your angst will come out in other ways such as body language, impatience or vocal tones.

On behalf of those whom you lead, be bold enough to be the 'bad guy' the next time you have a difficult message a to convey. In doing so you'll continually encourage each individual on your team to grow, thus allowing your company to prosper.

What's better than working for a leader you can trust to consistently let you know where you stand? Now that's inspiring!

Enjoy your discoveries and have a great week!


P. S. We'd love to hear how you used our 'Success Thought of The Week' in your business or personal dealings.

Congratulations to Ann as she was recently named one of the "2007 Women in Business" by the Cascade Business Journal. This annual list acknowledges women who are making a difference not only in successful business practices but in their communities.

Ann Golden Eglé, MCC
Executive Coach & President
Golden Visions Success Coaching, LLC

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