Thoughts on Leadership is the brain child of Paul Bridle. This is the place that Paul shares his monthly thoughts.

Bad News Better Travel Fast

Posted: July 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

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Hi and welcome to another thoughts on leadership. I’m still surprised at how many organizations I go to where things are going wrong in the organization and the people at the top are the last to find out.  There’s a mistake being made, there’s a problem with a customer.  There’s an issues over here.  People are aware that something’s going wrong down the line.  We’ve got this BP Oil crisis, and people knew that there were issues there and yet nobody spoke out.  This is going on all the time and it’s just not good enough. So I’m not in any way going to apologize for being quite blunt this month about what I see as something that needs to be worked at.  In your organization if there is an issue there, if there’s a problem somewhere, does the information come up to you?  Have you got people in your organizations that are running around hiding issues from management?  Weather it be their immediate line management or weather it is the top managers in the organization.  Do people feel confident enough to be able to come to their manager and say, I think there’s an issue here? I think we have a potential problem here.   Here’s the real issue! Does your manager listen?  Will your manager take it and understand it and give it the value that is necessary?  Or is it going to be “you’re just a worrier”, “you’re just negative”, or “you’re just thinking of the worst”; and then we get the BP crisis.  So what is happening in your organization?  How are you building the culture of your organization to allow people to come up and speak their mind and express their concerns, and tell you there’s a problem with a customer?  Can that information get through to people so that they know about it in time for them to be able to deal with it.  Or do you’re senior management find out about it when its just too late.

So this month I’m going to ask you to really think about this in a big way.  And these are the questions I’m going to put to you.

  • Does the culture in your organization encourage communication from the bottom up?

So much about oh yea our communication is great and all the rest of it, if that’s communication going down, then you’re not measuring the right communication.  It’s about what comes up as much as what comes down.

  • Does every department have a way of being heard?

I’ll say that again, does every department in the organizations have a means by which they’re heard at the level that is necessary?

  • How do people know that they have been heard?

You know people can say, “hey we’ve got a problem here”, they get no feedback to say, “ok yes, thank you, we’re dealing with it” or anything like that.  And if they think its fallen on deaf ears, that becomes and inhibitor for them speaking up next time.  So how do they know that they’ve been heard?  How do you reward that openness?  Do people get some sort or award?  And I’m not talking about a financial reward, just a thank you, ask for their suggestions about how to deal with it, anything like that makes people feel that they’re being valued and heard.  And how do you respond when it is bad news?  Are you the type of manager, or are any of your managers in your organization the type of manager that when bad news comes they go into a rage.  Recently I heard somebody who was saying they didn’t dare tell the manager anything because he’d get angry, so they used to leave him information and then run for the hills.  It would be given to him at home time everyday, when everybody could get out of the office, because by the morning he would have gotten over his temper.  If that’s going on in your organization then you have a problem.

So the communication in your organization, listen to this very carefully; the communication in your organization is only as good as all of your managers are in two areas:

  1. How good are they at listening,
  2. How good are they at responding.

Now here is the important part are all of your managers good at these two points?  If one manager is letting you down, then let me tell you, it’s affecting you as a group.  So think about everybody in your organization.  Do all of your managers understand?  Do they really appreciate the importance of these two things?  These two points define the culture of your organization and the communication up and down your organization.

I hope this month these questions have really got you thinking about the communication in your business, but in particular about this question of how fast is bad news traveling through your organization?  Is it getting to the right place quick enough so that you can deal with it, or is it getting to you so late that its virtually impossible to deal with.

I hope this has been helpful; until next month.  Bye for now.

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