“It’s no big deal, but I just thought you might want to know…”

“It’s not that important, but I heard…”

“I know you’re really busy, so I don’t want to take up too much time, but I wanted to share…”

“Uh, do you have a minute?  I can come back – I’m sure you’re really busy.  No really, I can come back later – it’s neither here nor there.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is courageous communication.

This is your employee trying to tell you about an elephant in the room.  And the bigger the elephant, the smaller the crumb.

They won’t come carrying a big red flag nor a fire extinguisher or a sign that says “run for your life, the sky is falling.”  There will be no signs on their face of the absolute angst, concern and fear they’re feeling.

They think you’re blissful in your corner office – clueless to the chaos just outside your door.  People tell you want you want to hear.  They smile when you walk by, maybe even give you a thumbs up.  You’re the boss after all.

Maybe it’s someone on your executive team that’s driving everyone crazy.  Maybe it’s a project in which everyone knows the deadline is going to be missed.  Maybe it’s a huge mistake with a client or with an order.

They will only give you one bread crumb and they will wait to see how you react.   If you fail to only see the crumb and not the trail to the elephant, the employee will not give you the next crumb to follow.

When given a crumb listen very very closely.  If they say it’s not important, it is.  Then ask the questions you don’t want the answers to.  Because those are the answers you need to hear.  And whatever you do – don’t kill the messenger – THANK the courageous employee for taking the time to tell you.