Breaking News: 11 Steps Leaders Can Take to Share Bad News With Stakeholders
No one likes to be the bearer of bad news, but business leaders often have to take on that role in difficult times. How a leader chooses to communicate with stakeholders at all levels in these situations has a direct impact on how the organization will move forward.
Therefore, it’s important that leaders carefully consider their every move as they navigate tough conversations and determine the next steps for the business. Below, 11 Newsweek Expert Forum members each share one important step a leader should take when preparing to share bad news at a meeting with stakeholders.
Be Transparent and Honest
It is never easy to deliver bad news, so be transparent and honest. Acknowledge the issue at hand, provide relevant context and explain the steps being taken to address it. Then listen to concerns and offer support. Ultimately, effective communication and transparency can help mitigate the impact of bad news and foster a sense of understanding. – Umang Modi, TIAG, Inc.
Gather All of the Facts
Before sharing any bad news, consider gathering all the facts and preparing clear responses to potential questions or concerns that might be raised. It is this transparency, together with a concrete plan for moving forward, that will convince staff members to trust your leadership and also enable you to demonstrate commitment to resolution and control over the situation. – Dr. Kira Graves, Kira Graves Consulting
Establish Clear Communication
It is key to establish open and transparent communication channels well in advance. It’s vital to foster an environment where stakeholders feel comfortable sharing their concerns and questions, creating an atmosphere of trust and understanding. This approach enables the leader to convey bad news and engage in a constructive dialogue that may lead to innovative solutions or mitigation strategies. – Chris Heller, OJO Labs
Share the Plan Going Forward
It’s critical to share how you’ll address or resolve what went wrong, even if it’s not your fault. Doing so will show your stakeholders that you are prepared and that you care to act effectively. Ask yourself what fears this news will conjure up. How will it impact their mindset, their teams and the business? What concerns do I or my team need to quell? What is and isn’t under my control? – Loren Margolis, TLS Leaders
Provide a Clear Content Outline
One way to prepare to share bad news is to plan and communicate a clear outline of the content you’re going to present to help manage emotions. For example, before going into the details of the issue, start the meeting by explaining that you have bad news. Share how you’re going to cover the problem, the actions that have already been taken, any potential solutions and the decisions that need to be made. – Chloe Alpert, Enobl
Share Evidence Behind Decisions
During a class I took at Harvard, a top attorney stressed the importance of explaining a situation and providing evidence of one’s decisions. This approach leaves very little room for opposition and can strengthen the credibility of one’s decision. – Tammy Sons, Tn Nursery
The leader should be the first to take the blame when a failure happens during their watch. When management is deemed as purely a fault-finding organization, you begin to have employees who are evasive. If they know that their leader is the first one to run forward in the line of fire, they will follow excitedly behind. – Zain Jaffer, Zain Ventures
Let Go of Biases and Emotions
Clear your mind of any personal biases and emotions, and be authentic and truthful. Be careful not to overstate or understate the problem. Provide the facts with clarifying context as needed. Be prepared to provide clear insight on how the problem was created and what steps can be taken to mitigate the impact. Ideally, have some of the recovery actions already underway. – Margie Kiesel, Isidore Partners
Put Yourself in Your Stakeholders’ Shoes
Before sharing bad news with stakeholders, a leader must start listening by empathizing with them and understanding their worries and viewpoints. By holding listening sessions, collecting feedback and foreseeing emotional responses, a leader can effectively convey the unfortunate news with sensitivity and address the immediate needs and concerns of stakeholders. – Adi Segal, Hapi
Write Down What You Will Say
In the moment, it can be difficult to stay on topic, so write down what you want to say. Many leaders also have bad habits in uncomfortable situations like rambling, trying to soften the blow with unclear language or getting off topic. A list of points will keep your communication clear and on topic. – Krista Neher, Boot Camp Digital
Prepare in Advance
Business leaders are bearers of good and bad news. Being the bearer of bad news requires additional preparation whether one is addressing employees, C-suite executives, customers or shareholders. When preparing, it is important for business leaders to be positive, honest and transparent. Stick to facts, show empathy, avoid shifting blame, demonstrate resilience and offer solutions or support. – Lillian Gregory, The 4D Unicorn LLC
Previously published on Newsweek.