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Bringing Bad News Part II

Bringing Bad News Part II

So last week we looked at a few tips on how to create spaces where people can provide honest feedback. Today we want to look at what is at stake if we don’t create these spaces and don’t listen to people.

  1. People worth hearing end up leaving.

I want to tell you about Karl. Karl is an enthusiastic Christian. He’s been following Jesus since he was young and has recently been more involved in youth and Lifegroup leadership. It’s safe to say this is a guy who has unrefined and even potentially challenging ideas. He often brings ideas to you about what needs to change in the church. He spots the weaknesses, identifies problems and occasionally shares solutions. Now Karl can be the kind of person who can get on a leader’s nerve. It can almost seem that Karl’s observations cause conflict with yours. Now here’s the catch, Karl’s observations and ideas are actually quite good. The truth is, he identifies symptoms but mis diagnoses the problem. He often struggles to connect good execution and thorough thought relating to his solutions. Now as a leader you have to lead Karl. If you’re the kind of leader who doesn’t create space to listen to Karl then you won’t have Karl around for very long. Now for some leaders, they breathe a sigh of relief at this point. “Finally he’s gone” they think! Yet I think this may be an error. For every comment from Karl comes the feeling of others who perhaps can’t articulate it but intuitively feel the symptoms of whatever problem is currently occurring.

When people don’t feel listened to, they won’t stay around long. Sometimes the pebble in the shoe could be a pearl elsewhere. Their case could simply be a one of leadership misdirected. In that case, they need to be heard, harnessed and released towards the best context.

2. People won’t feel loved

Being heard is an essential human drive. If social media has shown us anything, it is that people love to be heard. Now I’m not referring to people loving their own voice (which some do) but more that people want to be listened to and taken seriously. People want to feel important and know that they matter – particularly to their leaders. When people don’t feel like they can share news with their leader, an intangible barrier is put up between them. Trust inevitably decreases and room for vulnerability is minimised. This results in people feeling unloved, unheard and misunderstood. This is not the intention of the leader but can easily happen without clear avenues to communicate upstream.

3. You won’t have the right information.

When people don’t feel like they can bring bad news to the leader, it potentially means the leader misses out on making things better. Often on the ground, people can have great ideas or can identify problems quicker than we can. Now, if there isn’t space for these problems to be communicated, it means the group isn’t able to execute as well as it could be. A life group leader who feels undertrained to handle pastoral concerns, or the musician who doesn’t receive proper communication from band leaders. If these problems don’t make it back to the leader, then the necessary changes can’t get made and the context suffers. It’s better to know there’s dirt and deal with the dirt, then it is to overlook it. Without clear avenues of communication the right information doesn’t make it to the leader and therefore the right decisions are not made.

These are only three things that are at stake if we don’t listen to our people. Andy Stanley and Perry Nobel have spoken in greater detail on this in their leadership podcasts. It is certainly worth checking out.


When we listen to people’s feedback, people feel loved, retained and we get the right information.