One of the things I enjoy most is helping people tell a bad story. That doesn’t mean I enjoy helping them tell a story badly but rather, helping them deliver a story that people may not want to hear.
When a leader has a difficult story to tell, they will often do one of two things: they will stick to the facts and explain intellectually why something is happening and detach themselves from it; or they will try and tell a positive story about why things aren’t so bad and why the change is actually good. Either way the impact is often greater uncertainty and a lack of trust.
People look to leaders to make sense of their world and want to be able to trust that they can navigate them through.
One of the biggest mistakes I see leaders make is they only tell a positive story, even when they know the news is not good. In reality, a bad story is an amazing opportunity to have a big impact. In times of change or crisis people need a compelling story to help make sense of their world and they look to their leaders to give them one. Quite often all people want to understand is what is happening, why it is happening and how it will impact them. Most importantly they want to see that you care.
People engage with authenticity, and you can’t be authentic unless you tell the whole story.
Why I love helping leaders tell a bad story is because if they do it well, they can give people the certainty they are looking for, and they can very quickly change people’s perceptions of what the change means for them. Most importantly, in times of uncertainty you can connect with people in a very real and authentic way, and those are the stories we all love best.