February 2013: Go ugly early.

Let's face it: no one likes to be the bearer of bad news. Exposing mistakes and negative developments can be uncomfortable and make us feel vulnerable as leaders. That's why so many of us avoid disclosing issues early and instead wait until they become full-blown problems or even crises.

Whether in your professional or personal life, going ugly early is one of the best things you can do to strengthen relationships and protect your credibility. In fact, openly communicating unexpected changes and emerging issues actually builds trust, giving people a sense of comfort and confidence because they know that nothing is being hidden.  No one likes to be blindsided by a negative surprise, and by surfacing issues early, you enable those around you to think calmly and rationally (versus in panic mode) and manage through the issues more effectively, minimizing the downside risk or damage.  Further, you can build teamwork and esprit-du-corps by engaging others to work through the issue.

Today, think about how transparent you are in your communication, especially when it comes to the tough stuff.  Do you go ugly early?