A good way to deliver bad news

By Amy Beth Miller

Even when a subject is controversial, the elements of a great speech are easy to recognize. Thanks to Michael Hyatt’s Intentional Leadership blog, I saw the video of Bill Hybels announcing this month that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz would not be speaking to the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit.

No matter how you feel about Willow Creek Community Church or Schultz, the senior pastor does an excellent job delivering bad news to the summit attendees. During his 7-minute speech, Hybels:

  • Doesn’t delay. He tells the attendees within 30 seconds that Schultz will not be speaking, and Hybels acknowledges that is bad news.
     
  • Lays out the facts. He reviews what had happened over the past week, from the online petition threatening to boycott Starbucks through his own decision to allow Schultz out of the speaking contract with no penalty. Hybels also explains the church’s positions regarding homosexuality.
     
  • Focuses the audience on doing something positive. Hybels specifically tells the audience to support Starbucks, buy Schultz’s book Onward and send the CEO positive emails. The pastor emphasizes the tone that he wants them to write with when he says “With genuine Christian love, I don’t need to say it twice …”  He also explains what he will do next: try to meet with the people who started the petition.
     
  • Ends with good news. Before announcing the name of the substitute speaker, Hybels builds anticipation by telling the audience that he is “one of the highest-rated faculty members in summit history.” With that brief introduction, even if audience members aren’t familiar with Patrick Lencioni, they already are looking forward to hearing him.

Have you ever had to deliver bad news to an audience? What tips can you share?

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One response to “A good way to deliver bad news

  1. Pingback: Spilling Leadership Coffee « Mark Mathia

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