The Good Shop Lollipop—Only Good News!
In early 2018 as Facebook struggled with privacy issues, I was shocked to hear on NPR that COO Sheryl Sandberg has a sign on her private conference room saying “Only Good News.” (Perhaps there’ll be a follow-up story about her having a corresponding conference room with an “Only Bad News” sign.)
As someone who was brought into Facebook as adult supervision and apparently has had success in driving profitability, I’d expect her to see the danger in this.
If a senior executive asks that she hear only good news, why would someone tell her about Russian interference on her platform of U.S. elections? Why would anyone inform her about millions of records being used for nefarious purposes?
Forget Facebook momentarily and imagine yourself as a senior executive of a company — perhaps one that brings real value to society rather than kitty videos. If you ask that your people only bring you good news, do you think it might cause them to fudge the revenue numbers to make the quarterly budget?
If you just want to hear positive news, is it possible you might not hear that morale sucks and turnover is increasing?
If you only want to hear the good stuff, will the marketing department tell you about a competitor that’s poised to eat your lunch?
What if the entire company loathes your internal speeches? Do you think someone will tell you?
When product development is behind schedule, do you think they’ll make the right call or push out a crappy product to meet the deadline?
Cynicism is dangerous in business. People who usually see the glass as half empty rarely make effective leaders, because they’re no fun to be around.
However, a leader who doesn’t balance risk with upside and ignores the tough messages isn’t managing; she’s just presiding. Optimism shouldn’t eliminate realism. The Good Ship Lollypop doesn’t always find Candyland.