Are Your Assumptions Getting the Best of You? 9 Questions for Challenging Your Thinking

Are Your Assumptions Getting the Best of You? 9 Questions for Challenging Your Thinking

Last November, I wrote a blog post about dealing with difficult people. I told a story of coming together for a family dinner at Thanksgiving. About a week after the post was published, someone wrote to me and chided me for being insensitive to the COVID-19 pandemic and for not following the recommendation to avoid family gatherings of any kind. I wrote back and explained how disappointed I was that this person, who happened to be a consultant, would make such negative assumptions about me and my behavior. I explained that the story I told had occurred two years prior to the pandemic and that I had used that story to make the point about the conversational challenges some may have. They emailed back and denied making any assumptions. 

This situation reminded me that we often make unconscious assumptions which can create challenges. Our brains assemble bits and pieces of information and make judgments, interpretations, and evaluations at light speed. We presume that our thoughts are factual and we act on them, saying things or behaving in a way that is based on incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information. Unfortunately, when we respond in this way, we may create more problems and challenges than we intended. 

Here are nine questions that you might ask yourself to evaluate the degree to which you are making assumptions. 

  1. Does your past or your history impact what you are currently thinking? We are all subject to responding based on our past experiences and current frame of mind. However, if you tend to see people or situations in a negative light, do you ever stop, recognize what you are thinking, and ask if there is a different way to interpret the current situation?
  2. What facts or evidence support your view? If you go looking for facts or data and you cannot find any, then recognize you don’t have complete information. We all fall prey to the Fundamental Attribution Error, which simply states that in the absence of data, we fill in the gaps, often in the worst possible way. Looking for observable information forces you out of your emotions and opinions and creates a degree of objectivity that is important to achieve before you take action. 
  3. What do you think you know? This question forces you to surface your view of the situation and causes you to examine what you don’t know. Once you can admit what you may not know, a variety of different perspectives will emerge providing you with added insight. 
  4. Is there another way to interpret the facts you are observing? Although I mentioned this idea in the first question, it is worth considering this question by itself. Asking and answering this question requires a stretch on your part. Once we see things a certain way, it takes deliberate effort to make yourself interpret the same events in a different way. This exercise will force you to pause and think differently, pushing you out of your comfort zone and allowing for the possibility that your initial thoughts may be wrong. 
  5. Do you give people the benefit of the doubt? We are so often quick to judge others inappropriately or even unfairly. We tend to judge others based on their behavior rather than on their intentions. In fact, that is how we often excuse our own behavior because we judge ourselves based on our intentions. It’s easy to excuse our poor behavior if we understand our intent was positive. Additionally we must admit that we really don’t know what a person’s intentions may be without talking to them. Giving a person the benefit of the doubt requires us to ask more questions than merely keeping our thoughts to ourselves and assuming that we know their intent. 
  6. Are you a positive or negative person? If you don’t know, then this might be a tough question to answer. You may need to ask a few people to share their honest perspective and experience with you. If they tell you they don’t know, find someone who will be candid with you. How you tend to perceive things influences how you think and react toward others, particularly when they don’t meet your expectations. Because we tend not to see ourselves the way that we are seen, understanding your general mood and demeanor can increase your self-awareness, allowing you to make conscious choices about how you will act toward others. 
  7. Are you a skeptical or disdainful person? These types of individuals simply disagree with anyone that doesn’t think like them. They are not interested in exploring and understanding the perspectives of others. They are more focused on pushing their point of view. They usually don’t understand that “pushing” against a person usually creates more “push back,” rather than creating mutual understanding and appreciation. 
  8. What is behind your negative or “hot” emotion? Because our emotions say more about us than they do about others, learning to look for what is behind our feelings can pay huge dividends. When we experience negative emotions, it is usually because we didn’t get what we wanted—our expectations were violated in some way. For example, if I become angry when the members of my team are late for our weekly meeting, I might assume that they don’t value the meeting, the issues at hand, or take their responsibilities seriously. I have learned that my emotional reaction stems from my personal value of commitment. My reaction occurs because I project my value for commitment onto the members of my team. So, when they don’t show up on time, I may become emotional because my expectation in this instance has been violated. The problem is that many do not understand their own values or expectations. People behave a certain way and our emotions seem to automatically appear and hijack the situation. Our emotion masks the reason for the reaction, so the challenge is to discover the meaning behind our emotion. 
  9. Do you assign negative thoughts, emotions, intentions, or motives to others? When you are unaware of how your thinking impacts your behavior, you can almost assuredly bet that you are making incorrect assumptions. Listen to yourself and how you talk about others that upset you. You might notice your behavior toward others and ask yourself what your behavior says about your thinking. Do you have the facts or are you just filling in the gaps about what you think you know?  Once you recognize what you are doing and the thinking behind your actions, you can challenge the accuracy of your thinking by looking for evidence to substantiate your actions. 

Whatever your role in your organization, a leader, manager, or team member, it makes no difference. If you hope to improve your personal and professional relationships, you need to slow down and stop and think about what you are about to do or say. Assess whether your thoughts are accurate and complete. Take the time to surface and challenge your thinking so you don’t make false assumptions and damage valuable relationships with others.   

Do you struggle with communicating effectively? Do you need to improve your emotional intelligence?

Join me for my complimentary webinar, “3 Must Know Principles for Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence.”

We will walk through practical ways to defuse defensiveness in others as well as yourself. You will learn the 5 values that create the majority of workplace challenges and disruptions.

Nine Questions to Consider When Changing Your Culture

Nine Questions to Consider When Changing Your Culture

When I first started working in the field of organizational development, my mentors told me three things that I always needed to remember about change: people don’t like it; people don’t understand it; and people won’t like you for trying to implement it. For the most part, I believe that is the case. Why? Because people are comfortable with what they know and do, and anyone that tries to change anything is often met with resistance.

I have worked in a number of good companies over the years that tried to implement positive changes in their corporate culture that ended in failure. The lack of success of these change-efforts usually occurred because those leading the change effort failed to count the cost of success.

Before we consider the factors that one must address when undertaking a change, we would do well to define what the culture of an organization encompasses. Every organization has a stated set of values that supports the purpose of the organization. People have beliefs, whether they be positive or negative, about the organization’s values. From those individual beliefs, people behave or perform, and that behavior in turn leads to the results that the organization creates. In short, values are expressed in beliefs that drive behavior that create results.

For example, if an organization values teamwork and collaboration, then individuals may be rewarded for working in groups. Those that believe that a team approach contributes to their success will work hard to be inclusive and collaborative with one another in order to achieve the desired results. However, those that believe that teamwork is too time-consuming and obstructive, will do everything they can to work autonomously and may avoid working with others when they believe that the outcome will be less than effective. When the results are not what was expected, they ironically want to say, “See, I told you so.” Their lack of collaboration becomes the justification to continuing their behavior, which most likely contributed to the lack of results to begin with.

When an organization adopts different values and beliefs in support of new behaviors to create different results, there is a period of transition that occurs between endings and new beginnings. The longer one stays in transition, the greater the likelihood that the change-effort will be unsuccessful. To move more quickly through transition, there are a number of questions that every agent of change should be asking and answering for themselves:

1. How complex is the strategy for implementing the change? The more working parts, processes, and procedures that need to be changed, the harder the change is to initiate. People become overwhelmed if they believe that they have too much to address. You will increase the likelihood that people will get on board if you can create a plan for change that is doable and believable. Change agents should have a clear blueprint of steps to initiate a change. Especially if the change is quite complex, doing less is often doing more. When one aspect of a change is successful, then add another piece to the puzzle.

2. How many people are involved? The more people are involved, the longer the change will take. You only move as quickly as the slowest person is willing to move. By starting with a smaller group of people, you give yourself and others the opportunity to find out what is working and to make corrections or improvements before bringing the next group on board.

3. What is the degree of uncertainty? You must be clear about the outcome you are trying to achieve. And you must communicate your vision of the future repeatedly. Failure to provide clarity about the proposed change results in significant “wondering” that consumes people’s energy and causes them to answer questions about the change in the worst possible way. People want to know not only what the change will accomplish, but also what impact it will have on them.

4. What are the desired outcomes? This question is intended to help you specifically identify the desired outcome. Try to keep the outcomes to only three specific objectives. If there are more than three desired outcomes, people may struggle to know where they should put their energy and focus. They will become confused about priorities and then not be able to meet your desired objectives.

5. What is the degree of leadership commitment? Leadership becomes the critical mass of moving a change forward. If the leaders are not on board, others will know it, and they will be less likely to implement the desired change. When the leadership of an organization is committed, they will become a positive example of involvement for others to follow.

6. What is the strength of tradition? When things are going well and employees have enjoyed a degree of success over a long period of time, it is much more difficult to get them to change. They just don’t see the need. To overcome the strength of tradition, you need to start new traditions and demonstrate the value for changing. One way to do this is by broadcasting positive stories or examples of success that people have experienced. Still others will need facts and data about how time and the bottom line may be impacted. If you fail to provide the information that people want or need, they will continue to tell the old stories that support the old ways of doing things. This keeps people stuck in the past and doesn’t help them to try doing things differently. Consequently, the new results are never achieved nor shared which makes the change more difficult.

7. Are new beginnings experienced as loss or gain? I know of a situation where the repairmen for a major cable company complained for years that their trucks were continually breaking down. The company finally took steps to buy an entire fleet of new trucks. The only problem was that in addition to the trucks having manual transmissions, none of them had air-conditioning. Saying that no one was happy about driving these new trucks through Texas in the middle of summer would be an understatement. It is important for anyone initiating a change to understand what people value and then to make changes that will address that value. If you are out of touch with the workforce and what is important to them, then you may initiate a change for which there is no perceived value—no gain. When that happens, very few people will support the change.

8. How patient are you? As you probably already gathered, change takes time. The more people involved, the more complex the change, the longer it takes. Some companies just don’t have the patience. They may try to change too much, too soon, and in a shorter time span, and then when they don’t get the results that they expected, they pull the plug. The problem with backing out in this way is that it sends the message that the company wasn’t really serious about changing things from the beginning. This leaves those that threw their heart and soul into the change frustrated and angry. Those that never believed what was being proposed want to tell everyone, “I told you so.” The next time the organization decides that some changes need to be made, it will take even more energy to overcome the negative stigma the company has created by their lack of patience in seeing the change through to completion.

9. How committed are you? If you are sincerely committed to making a change, then you will stick with it no matter what. That means you will be willing to learn from your mistakes and make course corrections as you implement or roll out different aspects of the change. Another important question you could ask yourself is, “Am I willing to learn and be flexible?” If your answer is in the affirmative, then you will be committed to doing whatever is necessary to make the changes that will yield more positive results. You don’t want to get stuck in the process of the change at the expense of results.

One thing we know for certain, nothing ever stays the same. Everything changes. The key to initiating a successful change is to carefully plan, address, execute the different steps involved, and ask yourself the questions that will insure that your change-endeavor will yield the desired results. By asking yourself the questions above, you will be better equipped to make the desired change a reality.

Do you struggle with communicating effectively? Do you need to improve your emotional intelligence?

Join me for my complimentary webinar, “3 Must Know Principles for Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence.”

We will walk through practical ways to defuse defensiveness in others as well as yourself. You will learn the 5 values that create the majority of workplace challenges and disruptions.

What Messages Are You Sending? Nine Questions for Improving Your Broadcast Message

What Messages Are You Sending? Nine Questions for Improving Your Broadcast Message

A number of years ago, I was asked to coach an individual who had pretty much alienated everyone with whom he worked. When I was asked to work with him, I asked why his rehabilitation was so important. His senior leader indicated that he was extremely competent, but that he was interpersonally challenged. I soon found out that his assessment was an understatement.

When we met for the first time, rather than introduce himself, he said, “Well, I guess you are supposed to fix me. Whatever that means. But I challenge you to teach me anything I don’t already know.” Try as I did, our coaching engagement did not last very long. Why? He really wasn’t interested in learning anything about himself or what he could improve. At every turn, I was confronted with an air of superiority and arrogance that I had previously never encountered. When I tried to teach him something that would help him to be more aware of himself and his impact on others, he wasn’t interested. When I tried to teach him a skill that I had developed to increase our understanding of others, he swore that he had learned that before somewhere, although he could not remember where. In short, he assured me that nothing that I was teaching would do any good nor would it help him further his career. He ended up being right about that because he left the organization shortly thereafter.

We all have a “broadcast message.”  Our broadcast message is a subtle message that is conveyed by our delivery. This message originates in our minds and is channeled through the various ways that we use to deliver what we would like to say, such as tone, body language, word choices, etc. What makes our broadcast message difficult to discern is that we do not see ourselves the way that we are seen. Consequently we may lack an awareness of how we come across to others.

Here’s an example of polar opposite broadcast messages:

My business coach is someone who walks into the room and you immediately feel energized and inspired by his presence. He is always positive and treats whomever he is speaking to as if they are the most important person in the world. He gives you his full attention, and you return the favor. Conversely, a colleague of mine once told me of a former manager he had who would enter the doorway on a mission to criticize whomever was nearby. Everyone would leave his meetings deflated and defeated. Such broadcast messages are powerful and can be very influential one way or another.

So, how can we tell what our broadcast message is? Outside of finding someone who will be honest and provide us direct feedback, you might try asking yourself the following questions on a regular basis:

What is my tone when I talk to people?

Tone is the music of the mind. So if you are feeling upset or angry, chances are whatever you are telling others will come out in that tone. Sometimes when I am having a tough day, I will tell my staff that they should not interpret the tone of my message as any sort of accusation about them or their behavior. They will usually ask me what is going on with me or if there is anything they can do to support me. This always helps my messaging take a more positive turn.

What messages do my nonverbal behaviors send?

What do you do with your face, your mouth, your eyes or your hands and arms? Do you furrow your brow, offer a glaring stare, and grit your teeth? Perhaps you wave your hands about, point at people or chop the air. All of these behaviors are usually interpreted negatively and can be quite intimidating and demeaning to others. Start to notice what you do with your body as you are speaking to others.

How do others respond to me?

You also want to notice how others are responding to your message. Are they looking at you? Asking questions? Offering comments or other ideas? Or, are their heads down looking at the ground without saying anything? People are a great reflection of the message that you broadcast. If you can notice what others are doing, then a change in your behavior may help you increase the engagement of others. You can accurately assess the positivity of your delivery by the positivity of the audience’s response.

What am I assuming about those to whom I am speaking?

Negative assumptions usually lead to negative feelings, words, and actions. If you can check your assumptions before you start speaking, then you may learn to challenge them for their accuracy before you begin. This is not easy because in the absence of data we usually make it up in the most negative way possible. Particularly when our expectations are violated, it is very easy for us to assume the worst about a person or a situation and then act accordingly. Those actions are part of the broadcast message that you send to others.

What emotions do I display?

Because we like to say that emotion is the mask of meaning, our emotions often hide the meaning behind our message. Your emotions are the cue to what is going on in your head, what you are thinking in that particular moment. If you are angry with someone, then your message may be laced with the emotions that you are experiencing at the moment even if they have nothing to do with the person to whom you are speaking. In this way, your emotions becoming a reality check to assess the quality of your thinking.

What assumptions are hidden behind my feelings?

Every negative emotional reaction is preceded by a thought. Often our emotions become so intense that we miss the thinking behind our feelings. In order to uncover your thinking, try finishing the sentence stem. “I’m (state your feeling) because (finish the sentence)….” Try to finish this sentence stem as many times as you can. It is an interesting exercise for uncovering the thinking that is hidden by our feelings.

What do I project onto others?

We have values that we project onto others. For example, let’s say that you highly value keeping your word. So, when people commit to do something, you have the expectation that they will keep their commitment. When they don’t keep their word, you become angry. In this way, we assign to others the value that is important to us. This difference in values often leads us to adopt an inaccurate or incomplete story about others that influences our behavior when dealing with them from that time on. In this way we create a negative broadcast message that usually has a more negative influence on them than anything we might say.

What kind of energy do I exude?

People have a positive or negative frequency. Some project a positivity that suggests they like people and value them for their contributions and uniqueness. This type of energy is very attractive, so they draw people to them. Others possess a degree of negativity that repulses or pushes people away. Someone who is highly negative may drain the energy from others who leave their presence feeling exhausted by their interaction with them. If you are such an individual, you can change your energetic delivery by training yourself to see the positive and the opportunities available to you rather than focusing on the negative.

What stories do I tell repeatedly?

Negative stories that are frequently repeated possess a hidden positive statement of value, something that was wanted or expected but was not achieved. By recognizing the stories you repeat, you can begin to notice what is important to you and understand the source of a negative broadcast message.

Recognizing our broadcast message is not easy. We often don’t see how we come across to others. Unless someone points out what they don’t like about your delivery, you may have difficulty recognizing how you come across. Hopefully asking yourself these questions and even seeking the feedback of others will help you gain a deeper understanding of the messages that you send. When you understand how others perceive you, then you can take steps to making a change and improving your broadcast message.

Do you struggle with communicating effectively? Do you need to improve your emotional intelligence?

Join me for my complimentary webinar, “3 Must Know Principles for Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence.”

We will walk through practical ways to defuse defensiveness in others as well as yourself. You will learn the 5 values that create the majority of workplace challenges and disruptions.

Do You Foster a Culture of Encouragement? Eight Questions for Improving Your Leadership

Do You Foster a Culture of Encouragement? Eight Questions for Improving Your Leadership

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch one of my favorite college basketball teams win their quarterfinal contest in the NIT. What was so memorable about this game was that one of the team’s long-time stars played even though he was very sick. He contracted the flu before the game and was not expected to play. He went to the coach and told him that he would give his all, with the stipulation that when it became apparent that he could no longer compete, the coach would pull him from the game.

This experience made me stop and reflect about the type of atmosphere or environment we create with those whom we work. Creating a culture of encouragement goes a long way toward elevating and improving the performance of our associates and coworkers. Here are some questions to help you evaluate whether your leadership contributes to a culture of encouragement.

Do you express a positive attitude toward the objective or goal to be accomplished?

Nothing is more demoralizing than to have a leader who openly expresses his or her doubts of the importance of a task and has little good to say about it. Attitudes are contagious – those who are negative create negativity around them; positive attitudes promote positivity. Leaders should examine their attitude and do whatever they can to express optimism and positivity toward whatever goal that people are set to accomplish.

Do you trust your team to meet your expectations?

Trust is a necessary ingredient for impactful encouragement. You can’t sincerely encourage someone unless you trust them to do their job to the best of their ability. Once you have given clear directions, you need to allow individuals to complete the tasks at hand without micromanaging them and the outcome. The expression of your trust will empower your team members to perform well, increase their skills, and encourage them to be successful.

Are you patient when things don’t turn out as planned?

Sometimes your expectations may not be met. When this happens, check the clarity of your directions. It is also a good opportunity to identify why the desired results were not achieved. Additionally, you might assess whether individuals were lacking skills or resources to be able to successfully complete the assigned tasks. This may be a good opportunity for you to teach and coach those individuals to grow and develop new skills which will lead to future success.

Are you supportive of the work and efforts of others?

When you don’t receive the desired results, you have an opportunity to express continued encouragement in their efforts and reassure them that you know that they will succeed. Doing so will instill the confidence necessary to achieve the desired results.

Do you express appreciation?

Sometimes the only time that a person may hear from their manager is when they haven’t performed as expected. This leaves people thinking that the only time anyone cares what they do is when they make a mistake. Rather than allowing people to constantly guess whether or not they are performing as expected, you should take every opportunity to express heartfelt appreciation for the efforts of others whether the task be small or large. You also want to encourage others to express appreciation to members of the team. Cultivating a culture of appreciation will increase both morale and productivity.

Do you ask for and provide feedback?

Effective managers ask for feedback about what they can do better to help others succeed. They also provide timely feedback when their expectations are not being met. Individuals want to know when they are not meeting expectations and are open to learning what they need to do differently. Waiting until the end of the quarter or even the end of a year to find out that their performance leaves much to be desired can be frustrating and does not produce timely results.

Are you inclusive in sharing the objectives that you are trying to meet?

Often as a leader, you deal with high-level issues that don’t concern your staff. But when appropriate, share what you’re grappling with and help them understand how their work contributes to the objectives of the department. Doing so demonstrates that you consider them an integral part of your team and appreciate their contributions.

Do you ask for the viewpoints of others?

Asking your team for their input not only may provide you with needed information, but it also establishes the opportunity for others to ask questions. You want to establish an atmosphere of candor and openness that will help promote overall effective performance. As people share their perspectives, there will be ample opportunity to express appreciation for what is shared and to encourage others to do the same. This additional information provides learning for everyone and develops an understanding of what others are doing and the challenges that they are facing.

Obviously our work teams aren’t necessarily like playing basketball. However, there is something to be said for how we treat others on our team and the deliberate attempts we make at recognizing others for their efforts and encouraging them to continue to do their best in providing value in what they do. After all, lifting one another is how we lift ourselves.

Do you struggle with communicating effectively? Do you need to improve your emotional intelligence?

Join me for my complimentary webinar, “3 Must Know Principles for Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence.”

We will walk through practical ways to defuse defensiveness in others as well as yourself. You will learn the 5 values that create the majority of workplace challenges and disruptions.

How to Deliver Bad News to Your Boss: 13 Tips for Making the Best of a Bad Situation

How to Deliver Bad News to Your Boss: 13 Tips for Making the Best of a Bad Situation

I had a previous boss who would go off like a volcano anytime the results that we produced did not meet his expectations. He was so volatile in his reaction to bad news that other members of our law firm urged him to get some professional help in order to keep the rest of the staff from quitting. When he was caught off guard, nothing seemed to stem the tide of his anger.

When this situation occurs it is never easy. Most of the time we would rather jump off a cliff than face the prospect of giving bad news to a superior. Nevertheless, there are a number of steps that you can take to improve the, “Bad news, Boss,” scenario. Hopefully you will find these useful in addressing a negative situation.

1. Don’t wait. Sometimes we wait to avoid having to tell someone that we did not get the results that we wanted. And yet, giving a decision-maker the much needed information necessary to take immediate steps to remedy the current situation is important. Get the information to them quickly to minimize damage.

2. Select the time and place. Find a time where you can give the necessary feedback where you will not be interrupted. You don’t want to offer bad news just as the individual is leaving at the end of the day. If you know that the first two hours of the day are the most hectic for this individual, then approach them as soon as things slow down a bit and make sure that you will have the time you need to give the feedback and discuss any pertinent issues.

3. Keep your boss in the loop. If you have correctly planned a project, and if you have been giving regular feedback about the state of the project, then if bad news occurs, it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise. Providing regular updates and making the necessary changes that circumstances dictate will create some ownership on the part of your manager. This strategy allows you avoid the entire burden of any outcome as it occurs.

4. Be simple, direct, and straight forward. There is nothing wrong with stating, “I have some bad news. Is now a good time to discuss it?” It is also helpful to tell the recipient of your message how long you will need. Don’t downplay the importance of your message or make light of the situation. Doing so may call into doubt your competence or credibility in this situation. Be serious and you will be taken seriously.

5. Take responsibility. If you own the entire outcome and you are responsible, then take ownership for the results. It might sound like this: “I am not getting the results that I thought I would get.” Notice that such a statement readily states that the person is responsible. There is no blaming others for the lack of results.

6. Remain calm. If your boss becomes emotional, keep your emotions in check. If you meet his or her emotion with an emotional reaction of your own, then the entire conversation will spiral hopelessly out of control. Remember that conversations that are highly emotional are usually irrational. If your manager continues to be emotional, try asking a number of questions to restore rationality to the interaction. If their emotion continues to rule the conversation, you might offer them the alternative for discussing this topic at a later time. You might say, “I can see this information is upsetting. Would it be better to discuss this later?”

7. Manage your delivery. Let your overall demeanor reflect your confidence. Use a positive tone in how you speak. Look the person in the eye, stand erect, and deliver your message. Thinking through the conversation ahead of time and planning for any possible questions will help you more easily navigate the situation.

8. Be prepared. Understand and analyze the events and why they occurred the way they did. Know the facts, details, and evidence that will support your explanation and your opinion. Recognize that some leaders will immediately want your analysis of the situation while others will only want the bottom-line. Assess your audience and present only what they ask for. A good rule of thumb is to not share the details unless you are asked. But, you must be prepared to offer and explain whatever they request.

9. Explore context. Ask your leader if she or he is familiar with the situation. Some leaders operate at such a high level, that it is safe to say that they might not have a good grasp on the details of the situation. Consequently, they can only render judgment based on what they know. Take the time to ask them about their familiarity with the current challenge and offer to explain the details and history of the project.  Also, be prepared to explain why events occurred as they did from your perspective and include supporting detail or evidence.

10. Lose the dramatics. Do not overly dramatize what has happened. Such drama might sound like this, “I am just so sorry that this has happened. I can’t really believe it. This is so, so bad. I hope you will forgive me for this.” This is overkill, and such statements do not make you look very professional. Stick to the facts, your explanation of what happened, and the ensuing outcome. Do not blame others for whatever they did or didn’t do. The only time you should mention others is when you want to praise someone. NO drama!

11. Prepare solutions. At the same time that you give the bad news, you should come prepared to offer solutions to the current challenge. The operative word is “solutions.” You might say at this point in the conversation, “After thinking through the situation, I have identified a number of solutions that we could use. Would you like to hear them?” Let them make the decision to hear your ideas or not. Some would prefer to think things through before considering various options. Also be prepared to share how long a solution may take to implement and what the possible and logical outcomes will be.

12. Document solutions. If you end up deciding on a course of action to address a challenge, be sure that you summarize and record the details of the solution. This is a critical step for proper execution. Be as detailed as you need to be and don’t assume anything. If you need to ask questions, then do so. It might sound something like this, “I will summarize what we both have agreed to do and get it to you today by 4:00 p.m. After receiving your approval, I’ll contact everyone who will be involved by close of business tomorrow. Then I’ll report our results within three days to share what progress we have made and any challenges that we may be having. Does that work for you?” This allows you to check your understanding and to clarify what you agreed to do.

13. Apologize if you are at fault. If you are at fault, then own it by apologizing. Don’t make your apology long or drawn out. It should be precise and concise, then move on. Only apologize for your part or role in the situation. Many times things don’t work out because of a number of unforeseen circumstances. Own your part and that is all. You might also share briefly what you learned from the situation.

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes providing the boss with bad news can fill us with anxiety and dread. Taking a few moments to prepare and follow these steps will help you to hold the “bad news” conversation in a competent and professional manner that will build your confidence and competence while moving forward.

Do you struggle with communicating effectively? Do you need to improve your emotional intelligence?

Join me for my complimentary webinar, “3 Must Know Principles for Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence.”

We will walk through practical ways to defuse defensiveness in others as well as yourself. You will learn the 5 values that create the majority of workplace challenges and disruptions.