Lesson 1 of 9

Four Loop Learning team member Jayme Markus often has two little eyes peering over her shoulder during Zoom calls. It is her cat Doug. As a way for her to help share leadership lessons that come her way from her time at Four Loop Learning, Doug is kindly here to help summarize them. Hence, The DougDen blog series has arrived. Welcome to Leadership Lessons From My Calls with Bob: Lesson 1 of 9.


For the past year, I’ve had the joy of working with Bob Cancalosi at Four Loop Learning. As many teams do, each month we have a touch base call – but – Bob does something on our calls that I have never seen a boss do before. Each call is closed with the same question, “What is one take-away you’ve learned from the call today?” And we write it down.

Now, some skeptics may think – does this question hold some ulterior motive? Does he have something in mind he wants you to say? I assure you, no. This is a mentorship exercise that Bob has shared with me and, in turn, has resulted in an invaluable list of expertise over the course of, now, 9 months and counting. So that is why, this is the first of a 9-post series: Lessons From My Calls with Bob.


Lesson 1: Share bad news quickly and have two ideas on how to solve it

On a chilly December zoom call, Bob included an extra slide on our agenda. It was a slide of lessons he had learned from a dear friend who had passed away. This person worked with Bob for over 15 years, and she was an outstanding executive assistant. As he was reflecting on the years spent with her, one thing really stuck out to me… how she handled difficult conversations.

In work and in life, we are bound to find ourselves in a position where we need to report bad news to someone. Whether it is sharing news to a boss, friend, parent, etc… projects and plans will not always go the way we expect them to.

I don’t know about you, but when it’s up to me to share bad news… I overthink the conversation in anticipation of it. My mind plays the scenario over again too many times. How should I start the conversation? What if they react this way? Or that way? And so on. The problem becomes over-inflated and takes most of the focus.

Now, this individual had a different technique: She would share bad news quickly and give two ways to solve it.

Whoa. My ‘aha’ moment with this is as follows:

By framing the conversation this way, it immediately takes power away from the problem. Not only that, but it puts the power into solving it.

By framing the conversation this way, it immediately takes power away from the problem. Not only that, but it puts the power into solving it.

It prevents “the problem” from taking up 45+ minutes in a meeting (we’ve all been there), and it gives the solutions center-stage. Thus, supporting your team (or friend, etc.) in choosing the next decision.

This conversation-structure is a game-changer folks.

With this tip in mind, I now feel equipped to dissolve paralyzing-thoughts – especially when it comes to being the bearer of bad news. It postures my mind into a solutions-based mindset that not only supports the team around me and helps me maintain a clear head about it.

Over the course of 9 months, it’s been remarkable how a simple reflection activity has resulted in invaluable wisdom that probably would have been forgotten had we not intentionally reflected and written them down.

This is what Four Loop Learning is all about: intentional reflection resulting in growth. I am excited to share this series of 9 Lessons with the Four Loop Learning community.

Illustration of Doug the Cat

Doug’s Take-away:

If we share bad news quickly – with two ways to solve it, you take the power away from the problem and into the solution.

How might you implement this tip in your life this week?