Lesson #24

When the Wolf's at the Door, What You Do Can Make the Difference between Living to Fight Another Day and Going Down for the Count

If you have a business, you're inevitably going to have problems. The trick is learning to deal with the problems and preventing the issues from escalating out of control. You're only fooling yourself when you pretend they don't exist. Therefore, it's how you deal with problems that makes or breaks you and your organization.

In reality, there's nothing wrong with having problems—that is, except when you don't know you're having them. The proverbial streets are littered with executives and entrepreneurs who never knew their operations had problems—either because their employees didn't bring them to their attention or because the bosses didn't tackle the problems and do something when they were confronted.

This is exactly why a manager should never shoot the messenger. I had a simple yet effective set of rules that all my direct reports clearly understood as to how they must deliver news to me. First, they had to present any bad news in person—or, when I wasn't available, via telephone. E-mail was strictly forbidden. Although they could communicate good news in any way, the smart ones made it a point to look me in the eyes and deliver their tidings of joy in person. This makes good sense, particularly because it's so important to have quality face time with the boss.

Entrepreneurs and executives who have walled themselves off in an ivory tower ...

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