Bad News As a Precious Gift

Story of the Day for Friday March 30, 2012

Bad News As a Precious Gift

“Do not rebuke an arrogant man or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will become wiser still.”
Proverbs 9:8-9

If you were the head of a large organization, would you be most receptive to subordinates bringing you good news or bad news?

We would all prefer to hear good news, right? But great leaders realize that an organization’s health depends on the leader’s openness to receiving bad news.

Colin Powell, in his book, My American Journey, says, “The day people stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”  Problems cannot be dealt with unless leaders are aware of them.  And leaders will not be aware of them unless subordinates feel free to share their gripes with their leaders.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, shares the same sentiment as Colin Powell.  He says, in Business @ the Speed of Thought, “Sometimes I think my most important job as CEO is to listen to bad news.” He goes on to explain that if you are not receptive to people bringing you bad news, and if you don’t act on it, they will eventually stop bringing you bad news. When that happens, it’s the beginning of the end.

I tend to get frustrated when people complain about me and how I do things.  But that puts me in a dangerous place.  If people anticipate a cold reception when they bring their complaints or suggestions to me, they will stop bringing their concerns altogether.  To no longer have people complaining and criticizing me would feel so good that I would be tempted to encourage them to keep their mouths shut.

But once we are unreceptive to hearing bad news about ourselves, we lose invaluable opportunities to grow in wisdom and character.

A wise man wants to be informed when others see him acting in a way that is unadvisable. He views criticism as a way to grow in wisdom, and encourages others to be honest in pointing out faults in his behavior and decisions.

It’s not fun to be criticized. (Did I say it was fun?  It’s not.)  But we do need to make clear to others that we welcome their rebukes.   We may not agree with all of them, but even if we don’t, we have at least gained the knowledge of how someone else feels about our behavior.

So, how do we let others know that we are open to being corrected?  For starters, if someone corrects you, DO NOT immediately retaliate by correcting them. Secondly, thank them and let them know that you appreciate their honesty and the courage to tell you bad news.  And, finally, take the attitude of great leaders like Colin Powell and Bill Gates and view the delivery of bad news as a precious gift – as a way to be aware of problems and make things better.
(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)