Tips for Delivering Bad News to Stakeholders During an Advancement CRM Implementation


Unforeseen obstacles or challenges during a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation are inevitable. The worst thing you could try to do is hide it from your stakeholders—that is a recipe for disaster. When enduring obstacles or challenges during a CRM implementation, the objective, whether good or bad, should be clear and transparent communication to your stakeholders. 


Communication, especially when delivering bad news, is dreaded for most people. These conversations can be unpleasant; emotions can run high, and tempers can flare. There may be a fear that stakeholders will become defensive, and the conversation will strain the CRM implementation. This fear may cause the team lead to inadvertently sabotage the meeting by preparing for it in a way that stifles honest discussion. While unintentional, this habit is a byproduct of stress, making it challenging to deliver corrective information effectively.


Clear and transparent communication is critical to maintaining trust, understanding, and ongoing cooperation of your stakeholders during and after a CRM implementation. 


Consider this four-step approach for communication best practices when delivering bad news.

Step 1: Identify the delivery method.

Timing and delivery are crucial when it comes to breaking bad news. Avoid unnecessary delays, rumors, or leaks that can create anxiety and confusion among your team. However, you also want to avoid catching them off guard or interrupting their work. Choose a convenient and respectful time for your team and give them some notice if possible. Also, consider the best mode of communication for the situation.


In general, face-to-face in-person or video meetings are preferable for sensitive or complex issues. This lets you convey your tone, body language, and emotions and address immediate reactions or questions. Real-time delivery, whether in-person or virtually, allows for two-way communication, which should be emphasized. It is important to note that while adequate, a video or email message is entirely inappropriate in this circumstance.

Step 2: Focus on the solution vs. the problem.

Another critical element of delivering bad news is to focus on solutions and actions rather than dwelling on the problem. Clearly and concisely explain the issue at hand, but early in the message, describe potential solutions. If solutions aren’t available, discuss your plan of action to mitigate the problem. 


Highlight opportunities or benefits that may arise from the situation and emphasize team and organizational goals and vision. Involve your team in finding solutions and actions and solicit their feedback and suggestions. This helps them feel empowered and engaged and fosters collaboration and ownership.


Remember a few do’s and don’ts as you prepare solution-based communications.  

  • Don’t provide promises or unrealistic timelines for the resolution. 
  • Do reassure stakeholders the team is committed to resolving the issue. 

Step 3: Prepare the message and those delivering it.

Not only do you need to prepare the message to be delivered, but you also need to prepare the messenger. Before anyone talks to stakeholders, ensure those presenting have a clear and accurate understanding of the bad news and its implications. 


If those delivering the message are confused or correcting each other, stakeholder confidence will be diminished. Gather all the relevant facts and data and anticipate possible questions and concerns. This ensures everyone is in alignment as to what the issue is and strategies for resolution or the next steps. 


Avoid sugarcoating, exaggerating, or hiding the truth, as this will only damage credibility and trust. Instead, be honest, concise, and respectful, and explain the reasons and rationale behind the decision or outcome.

Step 4: Listen to the activity and ask for feedback.

Finally, be prepared to listen to stakeholders actively after you deliver the message. Allow adequate time for stakeholders to voice concerns and ask questions. Listen to their feedback and concerns and address any issues or questions. Show respect and validate you’ve heard the message—avoid becoming defensive. What has the potential to be a healthy conversation can quickly dissolve if a defensive perspective is taken.