Every organisation faces crises. Sometimes these can be existential and only drastic action can deliver survival. Sooner or later every senior manager has to give bad news to their team. It could be the cancellation of a project, the closure of a plant or a round of redundancies. You will have carefully considered all options, discussed them with the executive team and arrived at a plan of action. Now you have to tell the people who work for you. This is never easy – especially if it involves laying off some of the people that you have recruited and managed. If this is the case, then those individuals should be seen individually and privately before any general announcement. They should hear the details from you – face to face – rather than in an impersonal broadcast. You owe them that.
Now you have to tell the whole team the news. Here is a plan for that meeting.
- Start with the facts. Explain the detail behind the decision. Be clear and honest. Share data and hard evidence rather than opinions. If sales are down and losses are being incurred, then it is better to share the numbers. If mistakes were made then admit them. People need to understand the background to the decisions that have been reached.
- Expound the decision and plan of action. Be factual with numbers, dates and times. Show that you have thought through different options and explain the rationale for the decisions that have been made. This is not up for debate but it is important that people know exactly why this course of action has been chosen. If possible show that the pain is being shared across all the different parts and levels of the organisation.
- Explain in detail what it means for them.
- Show the benefits. If this plan is carried out successfully then things will be better for the organisation and the employees. So be clear what the medium and long term advantages will be.
- Identify difficulties and risks. This change carries potential dangers as well as benefits. Be clear what they are and how we need to act together to face these challenges.
- Ask for their help. We need the team (or what remains of it) to pull together and make this plan work. We need their ideas, commitment and initiative. Be honest and ask for the full support of the group.
- Ask for questions and answer them as honestly as possible.
- Offer time for individual follow up. Do not dash off after the meeting. Many people will have concerns that they do not want to raise in open forum. Allocate time for one-on-one meetings. If you do not do this then rumours and misinformation can spread quickly.
This meeting is challenging and there is a temptation to get it over with quickly. This is a mistake. It needs clarity, honesty and time. You need to prepare well, take your time and show empathy. Try to see the situation from their point of view. This is one the most important tests of your leadership and communication skills.
This post was previously published on Destination Innovation.
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