Wednesday, June 11, 2008

True Leaders Good at Giving Bad News

The Selection List for Staff Corps Commanders was released two days ago. One of my colleagues was up for promotion and I've talked to her over the past few days. I thought she was holding up remarkably since she was passed over and I'm not sure why I didn't say anything to her about it.

In the passageway this afternoon, the Division Officer for the Emergency Department confided to me that she had told C she was so sorry. C whitened and gave a little gasp. "Is the list out?" she wanted to know.

"You don't know?" the Division Officer asked.

"No," C replied. "I've been checking the message boards constantly." So our esteemed Director for Nursing Services took the cowardly way out of delivering bad news---he let someone else do it inadvertently.

The Division Officer also told me the Director for Nursing Services failed to contact the candidates for the DUINS program (Duty Under Instruction----full-time graduate schooling) who were not selected at this last board. "'I can't get in touch with them," he said,'" she told me. "Well, that's BS because I had no problems contacting them. He just didn't want to be the one telling them the bad news."

Leaders don't get to give only good news. Being able to give bad news and temper it with constructive thought on being competitive the next go-round is a vital communication skill and can make the difference between having a demoralized worker and one energized with a plan for success the next time.

Dr Robert Buckman, an oncologist, knows how difficult it is to deliver bad news. He suggests active listening and kindly communicating reality. When the reality hits, it's important to legitimize the emotions, but not to become emotional yourself.

Perhaps I should be kind and understanding---but I can't. When you wear the rank of CAPTAIN, you lose the privilege to delegate the hard tasks to your subordinates. That's why you're the captain.

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