One of the stressful parts of leading a team is sharing company news with your team. It’s never easy—especially if you have questions or concerns about the new direction or policy coming from “upstairs” yourself. You can feel caught between your people and the company. Still, you have a job to do.
It can be even more difficult to do this on a remote or hybrid team. First of all, in a workplace where everyone is omnipresent, people often hear about news before you do, which can make your task easier. But when people don’t overhear hallway conversations or pay close attention to water cooler gossip, it can be up to you to both break the news and interpret the news for them.
It can be hard to share breaking information with your team, especially if you don’t completely agree or understand it yourself. Here are some things to think about so that you can maintain credibility and authenticity while also performing your duty as an agent of the organization.
First, it’s easier if you break the news into four parts:
What you know and can prove
It’s vital that the information you share is as accurate as possible. Facts are stubborn things, but you can’t avoid them, and shouldn’t. What do you really know? What evidence do you have that supports that? Cite your sources where you can without betraying confidences.
What you think you know and why
Sometimes policy decisions are made on best guesses and projections. We often look at trends and make plans based on what we see now and interpreting what it might mean down the road. Hopefully they aren’t just wishes and vaporware. If you tell people something as a fact, and it turns out not to be true your team may accuse of you of lying or at least not being completely truthful. When you preface news with “Here’s what we think and why we think so…” it leaves room for the inevitable changes or disappointments that come when human beings make plans.
What you don’t know or can’t prove
This one’s rough. It can be hard to admit that, as a leader, you don’t have all the information or data you need. Still, admitting when there’s data missing or a high chance something may turn out to be wrong won’t prevent disappointment, but can help maintain trust with your team.
Things may happen that you don’t see coming or couldn’t predict because you don’t know it or think it’s relevant
The most important phrase you can use when making announcements to your team is, “Based on what we know, here’s what’s happening…”
Finally, there are a couple of challenges for managers that come with the job and are often stressful.
- Find out, and share honestly, what is negotiable and what’s non-negotiable about the announcement or news. Sometimes there’s room to change or adjust based on new information or when the facts change. Sometimes, like it or not, the change is happening, and your only choices are accept it or be prepared to change jobs. Leadership is hard.
- Don’t throw the company under the bus. It can be very tempting to say to your team, “look. I’m on your side but the company doesn’t care what I think.” That may make you feel better at the moment, but it makes you look disloyal to the organization, and weak to your team. After all, if the company doesn’t care what you, or they, think how effective will you be as their advocate?
Being a leader has days that are rewarding and exhilarating. Delivering unpleasant organization news or unpleasant policy changes is part of the job that’s less appealing. That doesn’t mean we can’t maintain credibility and trust with our team, even when they don’t love what we’re telling them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, offers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.
The latest book from Wayne and Kevin shows leaders how to design a team culture that has a one-team mindset and gets great results under hybrid-work conditions. You can order The Long-Distance Team: Designing Your Team for Everyone’s Success now.