Sharing bad news—top-down, bottom-up, and across the organization—has a number of salutary effects beyond the obvious benefits of transparency. It can elicit empathy and support, break down barriers, and expand the pool of contributors to problem solving. Energy otherwise spent saving face can be channeled into more constructive use. The net result is not just top-down, bottom-up alignment, but stronger horizontal alignment. As with the idea of encouraging risk taking and “failing fast,” bad-news sharing will only take root if the CEO and executive leadership team (ELT) practice it themselves.
Instead of asking ELT members to summarize how they are doing (which usually only yields positive reports), one CEO we know focuses the conversation on “What keeps you up at night?” At executive team meetings, she asks her direct reports to share their biggest challenges. Then as a team ELT members help one another by sharing ways they have successfully overcome such challenges. This approach encourages leaders deeper in the organization to ask the same question of their direct reports and of their peers. As a result, people raise concerns and surface problems earlier.
Source: “When Leaders Say They Are Aligned—But Aren’t”
Original Publication: Boston Consulting Group
Subjects: Management, Organizational Behavior
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