How to Deliver Difficult News During Challenging Times

There's no doubt that the last few months have been difficult on many levels.

Many of us have had to deliver difficult news at work, or we've been on the receiving end of difficult news. 

In either case, one of the most valuable qualities possessed by leaders is their ability to maintain composure during challenging times. It is a key part of executive presence, and there are times when it can make or break your career.

You may think that the only people who need this ability are those at the top of the ladder.

That’s simply not true. No matter what your level or role, you will likely face a difficult situation or two in your career. How you handle it matters. Deliver difficult news well, and you can earn greater trust from others. Do it poorly, and you will confuse people and be seen as a weak leader.

So how do you keep your composure as a leader and communicate effectively during challenging situations? I recommend the following four steps: 

  1.  As you speak, be honest and truthful. Address the situation head on, and acknowledge any shortcomings. Clearly communicate your plan going forward. Follow through with actions and behaviors that reflect stability and purpose. 
  2. Be aware of your body language. Non-verbal cues can reinforce your message— or be dead giveaways that things aren’t as rosy as they seem. So be aware of how you stand or sit. Avoid crossing your arms. Be one hundred percent focused and present.
  3. Be mindful of your verbal delivery style. Understand that the news you are sharing is unpleasant, and in some cases it may be jarring or painful. Therefore, be sure to share the news with clarity, empathy, and grace. When you are honest, transparent, and understanding people will respect you for this. 
  4. Finally, acknowledge people's feelings. Don't be dismissive to the feelings that people are going through. Recognize them, and allow people to process the information. Express that you understand that the news is difficult, and be emotionally supportive. However, maintain your composure and transition to discussing the plan to move forward.  

Begin practicing how you speak and use your body language, as you continue your rise up the ladder. The bigger your role, the higher the stakes when times are tough. 

So, remember: In times of crisis, others will be looking to you for knowledge and guidance to see them through.


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