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Communicating bad news in a good way is a tricky skill for business leaders

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Melissa DeLay helps CEOs find better ways to deliver bad news. It may come as no surprise that her business has grown exponentially thanks to the pandemic.

Over 22 years of crisis and strategic communications consulting with her Roseville-based firm TruPerception, DeLay has honed a framework for guiding companies through challenging situations.

“There is science behind communication,” DeLay says. “There is a certain way to write words. There are words to avoid, there are words to use. There is a right time to get your message across. We have the right vehicle to use.”

But too many CEOs don’t realize that closed-door meetings and poor body language say a lot, even when they’re not announcing or emailing about an issue. Hmm.

“The world is basically full of bad news,” DeLay said. “Unfortunately, how to speak and write in a way that is transparent, delivers results, helps you get out of a position of power, and is not seen as intimidating, pushy, or aggressive, or overwhelmed. Few people know about.I want to be seen as

Change is hard and communication is the key to change, DeLay said. That’s why she offers a free “cheat sheet” on how to let go of employees and avoid merger failures.

These may be helpful, based on what DeLay sees as leaders needing the most help right now. One camp includes companies growing, making acquisitions and looking for talent, but struggling to cope with constant rapid expansion. The other is people who have started downsizing, cutting costs and are afraid of where the economy is going.

Informal communication is more powerful than formal announcements, says DeLay. Some leaders let their guard down a bit during the pandemic to get to know their employees and it worked, but some of that ‘organic and natural’ communication is lost .

“If you want to be productive, you need to make it clear in your communications that you care about the people who work for you,” says DeLay.

DeLay recommends speaking objectively about the business, focusing on what is meaningful to the company, customers, and employees in times of disruption. She said employees respond better to everyday language.

Prior to any disruption announcement, senior leaders should prepare frontline managers to answer questions.

DeLay said leaders should be more informal and transparent. But they shouldn’t brag. In a recent email to a client, DeLay wrote about his CEO posting a tearful photo of himself after laying off two employees.

“I would have told this CEO that the most important thing in this situation is the employee, not the leader.” Please ask for any help you need.”

When emotions run high, a fight-or-flight response sets in and you can’t think clearly.

“Be transparent and be authentic, but don’t let your emotions into the equation in the moment,” DeLay said. “Just hit the pause button so you can communicate, your brain is functioning, and you are getting the best possible result. , to neutralize the emotions.”

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer for Lake Elmo. His email is