As a leader, it can be very tempting to think that no news is good news when it comes to your employees. If no one is complaining or telling you that there are issues with a client, everything must be going along great, right? Unfortunately, that's rarely the case. When you run a business, not everything is going to go smoothly. Employees are not going to get along. Clients are going to be unhappy with some of your products or services. Mistakes will be made. If you're not hearing about these issues, it's not because they aren't happening--it's because no one is telling you about them.
This, obviously, is a big problem. If you don't know about issues in the office, you can't do anything to make them better. You may also slide into the rose-colored glasses world where you honestly believe that everything is ideal. And the biggest problem comes with the issue of why you aren't being told bad news. Why do your team members believe they can't be honest with you? How are you showing up as a leader? If you aren't hearing bad news as a leader, something needs to change with your leadership style. Here are a few action steps you can take:
Examine How You and Your Team Approach Risk
If you and your team aren't consistently trying for new and bigger goals (and failing some of the time), you might be lulled into thinking everything is going well. Why? Because you're avoiding risk. To be successful and grow, you need to fall flat on your face sometimes. How do you frame risk within your company? How do your employees feel about taking chances? If you find you're always avoiding things that could lead to failure, you need to re-evaluate your mindset.
Are you asking for feedback from your team? I'm not talking about butt-kissing, I'm talking about actual feedback whether it's positive or negative. Maybe your team has learned not to tell you things because any bad news puts you in a rotten mood or gets them yelled at. If this is the case, start soliciting all types of feedback and, when you get bad news, thank them for being honest instead of accusing them of making mistakes or making excuses. It may take a little while, but you'll notice the atmosphere in your company changing for the better.
Look at Your Reward System
Your employees are human, and all humans respond to reward systems. Whether you have intentionally put it in place or not, your company has a reward system. Take a close look at how different behaviors are rewarded or punished. Do employees get pats on the back for undesirable behavior if it leads to good results? Do the butt-kissers or the realists get more positive feedback? Do you reward employees who agree with you and subtly (or not so subtly) punish those who have a different opinion? Now is the time to put a solid reward system in place that is intentional and that you communicate with your team. Show them that honesty will be rewarded and that keeping bad news from you is no longer the status quo.
Hearing bad news is all about being approachable. Your team needs to know they can come to you with their wins and their challenges and that they won't get punished for being honest. If you aren't hearing a nice mix of positive and negative in your company, it's time to make some changes!
Trish Cody is an Executive Awareness Coach and Speaker who focuses on optimizing results for business leaders. With over 20 years of experience as a strategic consultant for some of the world's top Fortune 500 companies, Trish Cody has coached and consulted with senior level teams in planning, designing, launching, and measuring the return for major initiatives. As a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Practitioner, Trish works with senior level leaders and business owners to raise their levels of self-awareness and create more trust, loyalty and success in their businesses and teams. Contact Trish at firstname.lastname@example.org.