October 31, 2016
There's lots of hubbub about emails these days: FBI probes, Russian hacks and WikiLeaking. In addition to cautioning my clients to avoid sending emails that they wouldn't want their bosses, boards or a judge to read, the controversy raises the whole question of transparency. If we are concerned about leaking, what have we hidden in the first place?
Leaders may not be able to share everything in every organization, sometimes for very good reasons. Personnel matters, for example, usually are kept confidential as they should be. Financial discussions and decisions that could affect the market are protected until the timing is right. And sometimes leaders don't share things with employees because they simply don't know as much as employees think they do.

"leaders need to take a hard look at why
they are hiding relevant data 
from those they lead"

Yet many leaders keep things confidential for other reasons: fear of conflict, a desire to avoid delivering bad news, tradition, mistrust of their employees or a desire to use access to information to manipulate those around them. When they withhold for any of these suspect justifications, leaders need to take a hard look at why they are hiding relevant data from those they lead.

What Should You Do?
If you're a leader, consider this whole question of transparency. Are your rules really serving the good of the organization or are you keeping secrets for one of the reasons listed above?
In a recent Harvard Business School interview, Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP (the world's largest marketing communications services company) and one of the top three CEOS in the world, stated:
"Everything we say or do could appear on the front page of the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal or in Harvard Business Review." https://hbr.org/2016/11/the-best-performing-ceos-in-the-world
What I find is that many times, leaders simply have not thought through the implications of a lack of transparency, including why they are withholding information, the message that sends to employees and other stakeholders, and the costs of keeping things secret. When I talk with employees - no matter what the group - they always want more communication, more information. 
Engagement flows from knowing what's at stake. While leaders sometimes can't answer all employees' questions, since associates may want the answers to questions that even leaders don't know, making sure the people you lead know you will offer them updates when you have them, can go a long way towards managing the perception that you are withholding.

Did You Know?

Our leadership classes always consider the issue of transparency, including the question of what information you are sharing and the costs and benefits of withholding.
In addition, we have a new associate with our group, Andrew Schnackenberg. He is a professor in the business school at the University of Denver and has written widely on this subject and offers his unique and valuable perspective on this issue. We have attached his background so that you have an idea of the depth of his experience. Click here for his background.
 For more information, call or write us at: 303-216-1020 or [email protected]

Be sure to read Lynne's helpful books on handling tough conversations.

Workplaces That Work | (303) 216-1020 | [email protected] 
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