Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember.
No Last Minute Surprises
This post follows on from two other leadership principles, Bad News is Good News and Bad News Needs to be Fast News. When someone says they’ll do something we expect that they’ll do it. When we say we’ll do something we all want to get it done. No one likes disappointing people. No one likes letting someone down. No one likes dropping the ball.
But the reality is we will all do it. At some point we’ll say too many yes’s and not enough no’s and we’ll get swamped and unforeseen complication will spring up and complicate and we’ll have to back out of something.
And it will happen to other people. None of us are perfect.
And at some point it’ll happen to someone involved in one of the things you’re running. What happens then?
When that inevitably occurs, you want to have built a culture where there are no last minute surprises. If someone’s not going to come through on their responsibility I want to know as early as possible. I want to know in enough time to execute a plan B or C. I don’t want to find out 5 minutes beforehand. I want time. I want to know as early as humanly possible. As soon as it’s clear they’re not going to be able to fulfil their responsibility I want to know.
I don’t like surprises.
But for this to happen not only do you need people who will tell you but you also need to have worked hard to create the culture. A culture where they won’t be yelled at and destroyed for letting you know. A culture where bad news is good news. A culture where bad news is fast news. A culture where people who give early warning of failure get rewarded rather than punished. A culture where it’s been clearly communicated that you want to know early if things aren’t working out. A culture where it’s okay to fail. A culture where it’s okay to ask for help and not a sign of weakness. A culture where if they think it’s a 50/50 chance of not happening that you want to know and have a backup ready and there’s no negative consequences for that person. Only in that kind of culture will you have people come to you early with bad news.
And then you work as hard as you can that there’d be no last minute surprises.