When is bad news actually good news? More times than you think! This 37th edition of the Monthly Memo looks at all the good things about Bad News. It’s also important for any leader to be able to handle bad news and by the time you are finished reading this column you may look at Bad News very differently.
It’s gonna happen: The first thing we all need to acknowledge is that there is no escaping Bad News. If we know it up front, we’re much more likely to be okay with the idea when we are confronted by it. Part of being a mature adult is knowing bad things can and will happen to all of us. Get over it.
Be ready for it: Since we know it’s going to happen, let’s get ready now! Often the worst thing about Bad News is we should have known this could happen. How many times have you heard about companies or organizations that have not survived a difficult situation? The biggest key here is training, planning and knowing your weak spots. Do you have people who can stand up and speak during hard times? Can you communicate a vision to help put Bad News in perspective? Do you have plans in place to handle what can come your way? Often the greatest amount of damage isn’t done in the initial set of circumstances, but in how we react — or don’t react. Is the tragedy of New Orleans the flood waters or what has happened since?
Leaders become leaders by handling bad news well: Everyone can do well when things are going great. (Lincoln and F.D.R. would not be considered our greatest Presidents if they hadn’t been in office during very difficult times.) Look upon bad news as an opportunity to do the right thing and to show leadership. Your customers, colleagues and competitors will judge you on how you handle the tough times. Just as important, customers will stick with you if you show your best side during those times.
Know that you are learning key lessons during bad times: You will be a more valuable employee, advisor and leader if you have been tested by tough times. Wear those challenges like badges of honor if you know you did your best during Bad News. Anyone who has also been tested in life will appreciate what you have been through — they know you are stronger for it.
Okay, are you ready? Instead of running in the other direction, let’s get ready for and understand the Bad News which is bound to come our way. One of my favorite quotes comes from Robert Freeman: “Character is not made in a crisis, it is only exhibited.” Go out and exhibit great character!