By Sandy Seay

6/25/2013 -

“Good news travels like wildfire, bad news travels slow . . .”. – Johnny Cash, c. 1959.

A Personal Note from Sandy -- Here’s a key management training principle that all of your supervisors and managers should know. If you’re in charge of other managers, you may want to talk about this in your next management meeting and make sure that they fully understand. Remember, if you don’t tell them, they won’t know . . .

“Seamus O’Sheaney was a faithful parishioner and enjoyed his life, his family, his friends and his work. In particular, he loved to play golf. Since he was getting a bit more mileage on his odometer, he knew that one day soon, he would be called up to Heaven. He was looking forward to going, in a way, but he wanted to know if there was a golf course in Heaven, which would make the destination utterly more desirable. So he went to his parish priest and asked him, “Father, is there a golf course in Heaven?” Father replied that he would consult the Lord and let him know tomorrow. Next day, Seamus talked with Father again and asked, “Father, is there a golf course in Heaven?” Father looked at Seamus with a hint of a smile and responded, “Yes, I consulted with the Lord and I have some Good News and some Bad News. The Good News is, yes, there is a golf course in Heaven. The Bad News is, you tee off at 8:10 tomorrow morning.”

• Good News Most of the Time, Bad News Some of the Time.

Most Good Managers are motivated by accomplishment and achievement and they “make things happen” in a good and positive way at work. This is part of what makes you good at what you do and the fact is that, most of the time, the morning newspaper of your life is going to present you with Good News. But . . . not always – there are those unhappy times when Bad News raises its thorny head and stares you straight in the face. When that unwelcome visitor arrives, we need to know about it and we need to fix it.

One of the first rules of “Boss Management 101” is – if there is bad news to be delivered, it must be delivered (a) unvarnished, (b) straight from the shoulder and (c) immediately. This is sometimes hard to do because many people are afraid to deliver bad news. Either they don’t know how the boss will react, or they hope the bad news will go away. But the problem is that it never goes away, it only gets worse. In Physics, the Second Rule of Thermodynamics tells us that things left alone don’t get better, they only get worse. For example, if you toss an ax out into the back yard, it doesn’t get shiny and pretty and sharp, it gets dull and rusty. This same principle applies to management issues and particularly to employment issues. In Good to Great, Jim Collins calls this “confronting the brutal facts.” All of your managers and supervisors should know that they have the responsibility of telling you the Bad News when it happens.

• What Good Managers Have to Say.

For many years, Stewart Hall was the President and CEO of a major industrial supply company in the southeast. Stewart says, “The Good News I like to hear, the Bad News I have to hear, because if I don’t hear it, I can’t fix it.” Dave Thomas was, for many years, a top level IT executive with a plant that produced ammunition for the armed forces. Dave would tell his managers, “Bad News doesn’t age well. If something is wrong, I need to know it immediately.” Henry Kissinger once remarked, in words to this effect, “If something is to be revealed, it must be revealed early.”

• What to Tell Your Management Team.

You management team should know that a Boss who discovers bad news on his own is an unhappy Boss. If your team gives you a dose of Bad News, you might be annoyed, but you’ll be a lot more annoyed if you discover it on your own because if something is going south, you need to know as soon as possible. One reason this is true is that most successful Bosses have a fairly large dose of the Type A management style. As Florence Littaur says, the motto of a Type A is “Let’s do it, let’s do it now, and let’s do it my way.” Type A’s are “Fixers” and if something is wrong, a Type A wants to fix it. Immediately. And then go on to the next thing.

Type A’s are the energy behind a successful organization. Type A’s make things happen. Type A’s create results. For these reasons and more, Type A’s make good managers. A Type A is a confident, goal oriented, energy generating, powerful manager whose focus is aimed squarely at the target of accomplishment. Type A’s can handle the Bad News – what they can’t handle is not knowing the Bad News. The strongest “fear” of a Type A is “being taken advantage of,” because Type A’s usually treat people fairly. Thus, a manager who withholds Bad News from a successful Type A manager will be in very serious hot water. We recommend that you tell your management team the following . . .

  • We have a good management team that produces results and we expect that we will have Good News most of the time.
  • Along the way, it is possible that something could happen that we might call Bad News. Sometimes we’ve made a mistake, sometimes it’s out of our control.
  • If Bad News occurs, I need you to tell me immediately, and I need you to tell me everything.
  • I may not be happy, but we will fix it and make it better.
  • Bad News, left alone, tends to get worse not better.
  • I have confidence that you will do this.

    This subject would be very good for your ongoing management training program and we’ll be glad to work with you in presenting this material to your management team in a positive and user friendly way. Please contact Sandy or your Seay Management Consultant if you have any question about resolving these kinds of important issues and visit our web site at for management advice and guidance on other employee issues. We appreciate having you as a valued client of our firm and look forward to talking soon.

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