Monday, October 23, 2006


Any organization can deal with good news. The difference between a great organization and a mediocre one is how they deal with “bad news.”
“Bad News”: Things that are true and need to be said, but are difficult to say. This could include disagreement, criticism, or dissent.

A great organization deals with bad news effectively. This means bad news goes “up” the organization as well as “down.” Bad news is expected to go down the organization, and usually does. When a pastor or director has a problem with someone or something, he will usually go to that person and express his concerns. But what does down, must come up. Pastors and directors must “invite” criticism and dissent. We must create a climate where it is clearly ok for bad news to travel up the organization.

To deal with bad news effectively, it must be carefully “channeled” to the people who need to know. This is a key distinction between good news and bad news. Good news does not need to be channeled, and in fact should be liberally and broadly distributed. Tell all the good you know about everybody, Ben Franklin said. Discretion is required with bad news. While we want the circle of celebration to be expanded, we want to keep the circle of concern as small as possible (see Matthew 18). People have a need to know bad news only when they are part of the solution or part of the problem.

Bad new must be delivered in a timely fashion. Timing is more art than science. Sometimes the earliest possible moment is not the right time to deliver bad news, because of the environment, or your personal landscape. But sometimes waiting is not a good idea, either. Bad news tends to become “badder” with age. Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow the difficult conversation you need to have today.

At CTK we want to distinguish ourselves as an organization that is not afraid of bad news. The glue that holds us together is a mutual commitment to our mission, vision and values. But disagreements will arise over implementation, and should if we’re trying to do anything at all.

Have you had any tough conversations lately?

“Iron sharpens iron” sounds real good until you think through what that means. Sparks typically fly when iron comes into contact with iron. But the sharpening process is sometimes violent. The way iron sharpens iron is through abrasion. The surface that is used to sharpen is rough and coarse. We become sharper through the collisions. If you don’t have any relationships in your life or ministry that are abrasive, you need some.

One of the requirements for being able to have hard conversations, and still come away on the same team, is to maintain a clear distinction between who you are, and what you think or do. We cannot take bad news personally. In fact, the Proverbs are quite clear that “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” If the “friends” around you are only telling you what they think you want to hear, then they are not loving you very well.

No comments: