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Need to Know February 7, 2012

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership.
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Managers usually hear the news before their team, and they have to decide what can be shared, what will help address concerns, and what will cause more alarm. I’ve been meaning to write about this for the last few weeks, and now there’s an excellent article from Amy Gallo on the HBR Blog Network on this topic (When to Share Sensitive Information with Your Team, January 31, 2012). I recommend reading this for yourself, so here are a few brief comments building on the themes highlighted in Ms. Gallo’s post.

1. Know your natural tendency: As an extrovert who likes to “think out loud,” I’ve always been inclined to share more information rather than hold back. Of course this does not include situations when I’m legally restrained from talking, or under direct orders from above to stay quiet. Generally I think keeping secrets is difficult in any social environment, and the separation between those who are “in the know” and everyone else will ultimately breed mistrust and erode esprit de corps. I also think people perform better and in a manner that’s more aligned with business requirements when they have more information, not less.

2. Question your motives: A very good suggestion. It’s important to ask yourself whether the team is better off knowing now, knowing later, or not knowing at all. This shouldn’t be about what’s better or more comfortable for you.

3. Tend toward transparency: I quite agree. One important consideration here is the difference between fact and speculation. I’m confident that the team can handle facts, but I am very cautious about making predictions. That being said, I do try to steer people away from extreme, low-probability scenarios.

4. Frame it about the future: One of the most valuable things a manager can do is guide the transition from reflection to action, helping the team understand the consequences to their personal objectives and responsibilities; what’s changed and what remains the same.

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