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Finding the opportunities in bad news

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

When Joseph Jimenez took over as a division president for an underperforming company, his first big question was: Why was the company missing its forecasts every month?

So he brought in a consulting firm who said the sales and operations planning process were bad.  OK, he thought. We can fix this with a more robust process, with more analytics.

But his team continued to miss forecasts. So he brought in a behavioral psychologist who said you have a fundamental behavioral issue in the organization. People aren’t telling the truth. They’ll say, ‘Here’s our forecast,’ but they don’t believe it. They know they’re not going to hit it, even as they’re saying it.”

That’s when Jimenez learned one of the most important leadership lessons of his life: Behavior is a function of consequence.

If people don’t feel safe bringing bad news to you, then they’ll never want to bring anything but a rosy outlook. “So I had to change how I behaved, and start to thank people for bringing me bad news,” says Jimenez.

Since then, he looks for the opportunity inherent in bad news. Jimenez says, “It’s more of a chance to say, ‘Hey, thank you for bringing me that news. Because you know what? There are nine months left in the year. Now we have time to do something about it.’”

— Adapted from “Fix the Problem, and Not Just the Symptoms,” Adam Bryant, The New York Times.

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