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Little Find

Listen to bearers of bad tidings

You really wanted to know the truth about what’s going wrong in your marketing team. But now that you have a tell-all audit on your desk, you’re not quite so sure, and you’re tempted to fault the auditor’s work. It’s a very human reaction.

No one likes to see failings, weaknesses and mistakes pointed out. We prefer denial or disparagement. To break free from these unproductive attitudes:  

  • Force yourself to focus on the problem rather than the person who brought it to your attention. Name the problem; describe it to make it concrete. What is this really about?  
  • Define and redefine processes to bring out difficult issues and work on them. 
  • Be glad that you have this opportunity to work on a real problem. This is your job! You should be more worried if no one wants to tell you about problems – that is a problem in itself. It might mean that your teams think that you don’t care or you wouldn’t listen. 
  • Be aware that the person who came to you with the problem often has good intentions, and that they’re in an uncomfortable position. Give them a chance to say their piece safely, and be grateful for the effort they are making. 

Don’t aim at the wrong target; attack the problem rather than the bearer of bad tidings! 

To go further

Don’t demonize employees who raise problems

by Nilofer Merchant (Harvard Business Review, 30 jannuary 2020). 

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Florence Meyer
Published by Florence Meyer
Executive coach, change management expert, and author. Constantly on the lookout for the latest management and leadership trends.