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Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes Benz once said “The higher you climb up the ladder, the more people will tell you what a great guy you are. The worst trap you can fall into is believing them” He goes on to add “If nobody tells you that they have a different opinion – that they actually don’t agree with what you are doing – then you may sleepwalk your way into disaster.

alone are not sufficient. Developing your BNQ, yes your “Bad News Quotient” is of paramount importance. I know the question that must be going on in your mind;

How do I encourage bad news to flow to me seamlessly?

With my years of experience in dealing with people across various leadership roles, my recommendation is to encourage what I have coined as a “MALET” culture

M- Don’t shoot the Messenger
A – Attention to subtle signs
L – Look for bad news
E – Create an Environment for bad news
T – Celebrate Turnaround stories

1. Don’t shoot the Messenger (M)

Just close your eyes for a moment and remember situations when someone shared a bad news with you and you just instinctively reacted – Oh no, I can’t believe it. I don’t want to know”. Even if you did not react in this way and kept your mouth shut, did you show anger non verbally? Did you unload the gun in any way?

Your actions speak louder than words. How you react to the news travels fastest to the messenger and many likely future messengers. Don’t shoot people or events or culture or whatever you are tempted to shoot at something or someone to justify the bad news. Always think,

How do I encourage the messenger to come back to me a second time?
2. Attention to subtle signs (A)

Look out for those subtle signs, the signals that something is not right. That missing data, those tense vibes in office, those less than normal frequency communication. Attention to these subtle signs will be triggers for you to find out more. Instead of asking “How things are going? “ ask “I notice that…what are your challenges right now?

3. Look for bad news (L)

As Bill Gates said

“Strategically a major function of the CEO is to look for bad news and encourage the organizations to respond to it”

Think about it, what kind of a leader are you? Do you look out for bad news? The earlier you know something is not right, the larger the window of opportunity for you to take action before it is too late.

4. Create an Environment for bad news (E)

How do you create an environment where the consequences of not telling bad news far outweighs the potential consequence of telling bad news?

The key to encouraging bad news flowing to you early is creating that environment where people feel comfortable raising issues as soon as they appear, rather than hiding them. Alan Mulally CEO of Ford Motor Company introduced a “stoplight system” to enable departments to report progress on key projects. He made it clear that he wanted to see amber and red lights and not always all green. Once they began to appear amber and red, he personally encouraged the concerned teams, debated and discussed with them what help they needed and how it could be delivered. Are you leading by removing roadblocks for your teams and helping them with solutions?

5. Turnaround stories (T)

The last tool in my recommendations, yet a very powerful one in my experience so far. Yes, share success stories in the journey of improving your BNQ.

Share stories of your team members where they came up and delivered bad news well in time and the right actions were taken straight away to contain or eliminate the problem. Such stories always send out very powerful signals across the that sharing bad news is not only important but the reactions and consequences are always positive.

I have personally been using MALET and I am sure once you make it a part of your DNA, you will enhance your BNQ, without doubt.

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