Last night we had a seminar in the office for selected friends and contacts about handling bad news and uncertainty. Somewhat ironically the tube network went into crisis preventing a few people from joining us.
A couple of themes developed in the conversation about how do you handle bad news internally.
Firstly (which is hardly surprising given that I was in the room) we talked about the importance of getting good quality intelligence.
When things get tough an organisation needs to understand how messages are landing and most functional heads are compromised in one way or another when it comes to knowing the truth about what is being said on the ground. Further more, any sort of systematic intelligence-gathering damps down the worst sort of speculation among senior managers about ‘what people are saying’.
Secondly, we talked about the pub test – what’s the 30 second summary that you’d tell a friend in the pub. Rather than getting drawn into opaque consultant-speak, the job of the communicator is to make it simple – a lesson that many of us forget, perhaps for fear of being seen as trivialising or misunderstanding the issues
And thirdly we talked about the need to show compassion.
My colleague Alex Woolfall who runs our Issues and Crisis practice joined us and talked about the power of getting a senior leader to say “this is not a decision I have taken lightly”. Try Googling it and you see what he means.