During a call with a peer of mine recently, we were talking about the things that make your heart sink during team calls, so I started to think about a light-hearted list of things that we can hear
- “There’s something you ought to know…”
- “I’ve got news…”
- “Do you want the good or bad news first?”
- “You know you’re my favourite Project Manager?”
- “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but..”
How you tell bad news can really make the difference for how it’s received. Ultimately, context is everything, so you need to make sure that your response reflects the situation. I wrote a blog about this in 2019 which can give you more tips.
How to give someone bad news during a project
1) Be honest, factual and clear. Practice this if you are struggling with what to say
2) Who’s in the room? Depending on the conversation, there are some subjects which should not be discussed in a team meeting.
3) Rip the band aid off: How would you want to be told this news? Would you want to be told outright? Have it “sweetened” somehow?
What do you want to hear?
During a kick off meeting, I reminded and asked all of my team to be aware that I want to know: the good, the bad and the ugly and that I could only resolve issues that I was aware of and it would make my life easier to be told it immediately rather than the last one to know.
What do Project Managers need to hear?
I am only talking for myself here… but I want to hear everything. I want to hear about potential risks, the current status of your work, what’s troubling you, what you need to do, any issues that you’re having, anything that I might be able to help with. I would much rather spend an additional 20 minutes talking to you, listening and verifying that i’m not the right person to help than have you wondering if I am. I much prefer to hear brutal, transparent honesty than something being ‘sugar coated’.
How do you bring bad news to your team/individuals? Have you got a great way thats worked for you?
We used to have a saying on our projects:
“Bad news is good, good news is great!”
We wanted to hear ALL the bad news. If someone told us our house was on fire, we’d say: “Thank you!” Because then you can do something – take some action. If you don’t know about it, you can’t do anything about it.
So, we’d start our group meetings with “Tell us all the bad news you have.” Not: “What is your current status?”
Yelling or blame was NOT a part of these meetings.
I even wrote a paper on this and presented it at a PMI conference an EON ago.
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