As a leader of a team or an organization creating a culture of transparency can be a powerful tool to build trust and organizational cohesion.
But what should we share, and when? How much is too much?
One thing to consider the type of information, is it tactical or strategic? Is it key to executing the next steps on the path, or is it helping to make sure we are on the right path? The level of information and the way it is presented will depend on what its purpose is.
Tactical: How can you tell if you are giving too much information a leader about day-to-day operations or a specific project? How much of the details of what you are doing (behind the scenes) or reasons for your decisions do you make should you share?
- How much information does your team really need to do their job effectively?
- Will they be more engaged if you explain the details – or check-out from boredom?
- What does this do to your credibility as a leader? Will explaining this allow them to see more clearly how you think and act or is it just your ego wanting attention?
When it comes to transactional information – its important to keep people in the loop – but more often than not, it should be at a higher level. Just as you aren’t always interested in HOW the job got done, just that it did and satisfactorily, by keeping status updates and decisions made at the summary level, it allows them to make informed decisions and act on their own with a more comprehensive understanding of the impacts of their decision.
Too many details will make your meetings long and expects your team to be able to connect the dot and understand their impact to their work at the same time. Make it easier for them by giving the highlights and the outcomes and offer offline explanations to anyone interested.
Strategic More often than not, we need to share the strategic vision and mission of our organizations and projects. This helps to make sure everyone’s activities are in alignment with the overall expected outcomes.
Most of us communicate the “What” and the “How” of our activities pretty well, but it is also important to share "Why" we are doing them. Good things come from including why we are doing things like:
- Connection the “what and how”
- Creating dialogue
- Encouraging innovation and creativity
- Providing clarity
- Identifying errors/flaws/misunderstandings
- Ensuring safety
- Improving employee engagement
- Generating buy-in
- Strategic vision and mission of the organization
- The challenges to achieving the vision and mission
- The strategies and tactics to overcome the challenges
- Roles and responsibilities
- Decisions that affect people, policies, methodologies, products, and services
- The rationale or decision-making processes for difficult situations
- Too much Personal Information – Use your personal relationship with the recipient as a barometer – but understand all things you share will become part of how people view you. It is always important to be authentic, but you don’t also have to air your dirty laundry– and it can be a damaging habit to confide too much.
- Ideas not fully vetted or thought out (outside of a brainstorming activity) – or that are seriously couched
- Sharing Frustration or overwhelm. Be a real person, but buffer appropriately if the recipients can’t actually help. Stress is contagious and drama is never productive.
- Concerns about other leaders in organization
- Admitting Flaws or Mistakes is often a great way to help other people learn from your own experiences. However, not all that goes on behind the wizard’s curtain is required to be shared… just like I don’t tell my guests about the laundry baskets full of toys and papers shoved in the closet when they come over!
When in Doubt:
- Consider Size and culture of your organization; share when sharing is promoted and accepted
- Consider Role of the Recipient and their ability to act on the information – or will they just feel overwhelmed by the stress of the information?
- Recipient’s ability to assimilate the level of detail shared with out disrupting their ability to function. Not everyone is good at being in the weeds!
- Before sharing – ask what your team wants, what level of information they need to do great work and make good decisions
- Ask yourself:
- What is my intention for sharing this information? If the intent is pure, and you deliver it in a careful way, the outcome will often be good.
- Is this stimulating the passion and commitment in the team members? Remember to also ask for their thoughts and ideas in order to get buy in and commitment!