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Shhh…It’s a Secret

Do you keep information from your team? How much should you share with them? It’s a topic that always generates lively discussion in our workshops. Many leaders lean toward sharing minimal information; or at least sanitized information.

I’ve always appreciated bosses who will tell me what’s going on. I remember years ago during a major multinational military exercise, our commander sent an intelligence analyst to give us lowly aircraft mechanics a daily briefing on what was happening. He didn’t have to do that, most in his position don’t, but it had two effects on us.

First, it indicated that he trusted us with the information.

Second, and most important, it demonstrated that he appreciated our importance to the overall team effort. The information provided in those briefings did not make us better mechanics. But it did help us understand those short notice mission changes and schedule adjustments. It made us feel a little more like a valued part of the larger team.

What about your team? How much information do you give them? Of course that answer will vary in every situation, but I suggest you default to providing as much information as possible. Let your team know what’s going on. Tell them the bad news too. Just make sure you do it in such a way as to avoid rumors and panic.

How do you do that? By being honest. For instance, if the financials are lagging, start by saying something like, “The financials are lagging.” Then follow that up with more detail and a question. “What suggestions do you have?” Make sure you don’t inadvertently deliver the message that it’s the team’s fault.

Some of you reading this are thinking, “You’re crazy.” In a general sense, you may be right, but not in this regard. Too many leaders keep bad news to themselves. Maybe they will try to fix the problem alone, or maybe they will go to outside “experts.” But, because they are hesitant to bring in their own team members, they lose the expertise of the people who can really do something about the problem.

Think of the loyalty to the company you will generate when your team members are the ones who solve the problem and make the company better.

Yes, there may be legal or ethical reasons to keep things secret. You certainly can’t discuss on-going litigation or specific HR issues. Of course, these types of issues are probably what you will receive the most questions about. If you have established a reputation of being open with your team, you will have developed a level of trust. When the team trusts you, they will accept your inability to answer their questions. After it’s all over, there are probably some good lessons though and a sanitized synopsis might be in order. Consult with your legal or HR team.

When it comes to information sharing, I firmly believe that more is better.


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