Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Why CEOs Need To Telegraph Their Punch

Most of us don’t like to be the bearer of bad news but that responsibility comes with the territory. If you can put the impact of such news in the future and not in the ‘now,’ there’s a real chance it will be more bearable.

This isn’t about managing conflict; that’s for another day!  It is about tempering and even minimizing the impact of negative messages you are obligated to convey.

Nothing new here; it’s done to us all the time.  Municipalities publish property tax increases well before sending the bill, insurers send renewal notices and premium changes a month ahead, sports teams announce ticket price changes well before the pre-season begins and, our suppliers often do the same.

Typical reaction to any of the above…’damn,’ just what I didn’t need,’ ‘there goes the budget,’ ‘got to find other options’ and on and on.  And then, when the invoice hits, we’re briefly reminded that we knew it was coming and either planned for it or take the hit but in either case, no real surprise.

Perhaps assimilated as a learned behavior, I found myself applying this style of messaging early in my career.  Initially I think I did so because I was a bit conflict averse but since then, I do so to ease the distress of all who are impacted by the message.  From my personal experience as the messenger or part of the message:

• In making the offer to a Sales Manager candidate, I candidly told him I had no confidence he would submit call reports or travel itineraries on a timely basis and the first time he missed, I would come in his office and swipe anything on his desk onto the floor. We both laughed, he accepted the job and less than 90 days later I walked into his office and asked if he remembered our conversation; in less than a minute the desk was bare. What’s the point? We had a ‘deal!’ He had an obligation to provide the reports on schedule, it was not my job to remind him. The reports came on time after that flash point and his sales performance exceeded expectations.

•  Health insurance—We made it a policy to announce a year ahead of time if there would be a change in the ‘sharing’ formula with the employee taking on more. Grumbles for a day and then back to work and…no surprise at the beginning of the next year.

• A similar experience shifting to a 24/7 operation, no one’s favorite schedule! We educated employees on the concept and let them choose how the shifts would be structured. Then, over an extended period of time they were given the option to sign up for the shift of their choice. In the end, about 10% of the folks had not expressed a preference and they were ‘assigned.’ Even after the change, those who found their choice wasn’t the best for them were given the opportunity to change.

• Over the years I’ve had a few direct reports suggest to me that they weren’t ‘happy’ and maybe it was time (threaten) to leave. On each occasion I would do what I could to understand their concerns, to let them know if those concerns could be alleviated or they simply came with the territory. Most of the time the interactions were successful.  Likely in your experience as well, a very few made this ‘maybe I should resign’ event repetitive. My tolerance stopped at two and after the second, when the direct report was in a good place I would ask him/her to share a few moments with me and present an undated letter of resignation bearing his/her name. My commitment was to keep that letter in my top drawer in order to make our next ‘meeting’ more efficient!

When I share these experiences with others I use the expression, ‘Telegraph Your Punch.’  The point: most of us don’t like to be the bearer of bad news but that responsibility comes with the territory. If you can put the impact of such news in the future and not in the ‘now,’ there’s a real chance it will be more bearable, for the listener…and for you.  Lesson learned.


MORE LIKE THIS

  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events

    Roundtable

    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)

     

    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.