It was classic Sea Gull Leadership. The boss swoops in. Dumps on everyone. And swoops out.

Nobody liked it when the “old man” showed up at their team meetings. When the boss came in the room, everyone knew they were going to walk out of the meeting with bad news, something to fix, and a lot less motivation.

The quick, daily, stand-up meetings the team had implemented improved communication and productivity. But, when the boss showed up, what started as a good day went downhill fast.

Showing Up With Bad News

Bad news comes in different forms.  New regulations, a delayed shipment, poor quarterly results, new competitors….etc. That type of information has to be shared with our teams. No one likes delivering bad news and no on likes to hear it either.

The unfortunate thing I see in many organizations is the leader is only visible to the teams when it is time to deliver bad news. Whether it is a day shift supervisor in a manufacturing plant, the head of nursing at a hospital, or a local government leader, one of the most common comments I hear is,

“We only see them when they have bad news.”

When we only show up with bad news in hand, we become the demotivating factor that damages our team. News Alert: That is not the role of a leader!

Showing Up with Good News

A simple recommendation is to show up and deliver the good news when you have it. Good news is fun to deliver, and it does not need to be earth shattering to have a postive effect.

  • Congratulate someone in front of the group on a promotion, a new client, a work milestone (anniversary), or a family milestone (new baby).
  • Share some positive customer feedback.
  • Tell of a success story from another department.

Showing Up with No News

Just showing up says something.  It says we care, and we appreciate the hard work of the people who attend those meetings. Our presence delivers a strong message of support, and that we are not out of touch with the front lines.

An Assistant Police Chief I know makes it his goal to go to a couple morning meetings a week before the officers head out on patrol.  What does he do when he has no news to share?

  • He says good morning and asks about their families.
  • He jokes with them.
  • He thanks them for what they are about to do that day.
  • He reminds them he is available to them.
  • He asks if he they have any obstacles he can move that are keeping them from doing their best work. 

Like all leaders he has a lot of administrative work waiting for him back in his office. He is not required to attend those meetings. 

But, he understands the men and women doing the work on the front lines need to know he cares about who they are, what they do, and how they are doing.

The Bottom Line:

Leadership influences employee engagement more than anything else. If we are only heard from when we have bad news, we are exercising Sea Gull Leadership.

When we show up with or without news, our arrival will not create a negative response. People will not scurry away like cockroaches when the lights come on.  

Instead they will gravitate towards us. They will see us as available, approachable, and in touch.

The first time we show up with no news, we may get asked, “What are you doing here boss?”  The appropriate answer should be,

“You’re here, so I’m here. I just wanted to let you know I appreciate your efforts.” 

When they hear that, they will begin to appreciate our efforts as well.


When have you been a Sea Gull Leader?

Dave Anderson is coauthor of the Amazon Best-Seller Becoming a Leader of Character – Six Habits that Make or Break a Leader at Work and at Home with his father General James L. Anderson (USA Retired).

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