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Sometimes it’s your job to communicate the bad news. It might be one of the toughest things you have to do.

There are plenty of resources which give great advice for doing this in personal circumstances, like when you have to say that a loved one has died. But I’m surprised that there isn’t as much help for doing this in the work context.

Over the years I’ve had to both receive and give bad news on the job, sometimes on the same day. I thought I’d share some principles which have helped me.

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Sometimes an exciting new possibility opens up for you. But should you jump on it?

That can be a tougher question than it looks on the surface. At first, it might appear simple: If I have time, and it’s not too risky, why not?

The problem can be is that you don’t know all the factors up front, and it may distract you from other things which are more important in the long run.

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Along with exercise and sensible eating, you know that the advice to keep healthy includes staying hydrated.

The idea is that your body performs better when it’s not worrying about running dry. Sensible enough.

But this concept applies to your team as well! How so?

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Your employees and partners are looking to you for direction. Perhaps you’re also looking for direction “upstairs”, whether that’s bosses, industry leaders, regulators, or whoever.

But there are many ways that top-down direction can fail:

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My article last week got me reflecting more about ambiguity in general. Because it’s not just about risk analysis, but dealing in an environment which is unpredictable. Where every action – or inaction – can lead to unexpected results.

It feels more important right now, because the whole world seems more unpredictable than before. But I would argue that it’s not substantially different than before, and in fact things are stabilizing after surviving the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic experience.

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It’s easy to freak out about all the things that can go wrong.

But, as a leader, your role is to push progress forward despite the dangers. It feels like you’re caught in a bind.

But business leaders are accustomed to making decisions in an environment of risk. It’s what we need to do.

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It’s real easy for me to get immersed in the details of the day. It makes me feel good to be busy and “productive.”

But I need to spend time getting back to the basics, the big picture. Why? Because it gives perspective to focus on the most important things.

A recent example was an offer I had to do some work for a group who approached me. I love what they do, but it’s also more work for me and I’m cautious about taking on obligations right now.

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I always find it useful to work with my clients to examine the nature and needs of all the stakeholders in their business. That discussion starts off with customers, partners, supplier, and investors. But there are more!

Sometimes leaders forget that their employees are stakeholders. They care if the company succeeds, because it’s often their primary livelihood and source of income.

But I often find that people forget about one of the most crucial stakeholders in any business: Yourself.

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I ran across a powerful idea some years ago which has really helped me to get control of certain parts of my life.

The concept is called a “habit trigger”, and is used when you want to develop a new habit but have trouble remembering to do it. It might be exercise, or unloading the dishwasher, or a skin care routine.

Quite simply, the trick is to attach your new habit to something else which is already habitual for you.

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I’ve been a strong proponent of the idea that most businesses have an optimal size. This flies in the face of the traditional wisdom that businesses must “grow or die.”

That’s true for some industries and business models, but the vast majority don’t need to follow that.

In fact, for many organizations, “grow or die” can lead to frustration and lousy quality of life. For you, your employees, and customers.

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