Good leaders today are much more transparent and open than leaders of the past. To engage team members and include them in decisions that affect them, leaders often share information about the early stages of a decision and how it is shaping up, even before a conclusion is reached.
Openness and transparency, after all, motivate people through inclusion and engagement. While this is popular wisdom and practice, leaders still must weigh the negative effects of sharing too much information too early. Because people act on expectations, complete openness and transparency is a fool’s errand, ripe with dysfunction.
How much information a leader should share as they explore decisions that influence others is of the utmost importance to team morale and action. Too little information and leaders are accused (accurately) of being parental and excluding others from the process. Too much information and team members will act as if a decision is already made, even though the idea may fizzle and be discarded.
Say, for example, leaders in an organization are exploring moving the company’s headquarters to a new city. Not to explore the options, especially when they have cost, recruiting, and customer benefits would be a dereliction of duty for a leadership team. So, the leadership team begins the analysis, believing in the end, the pros of staying put will likely outweigh the advantages of relocating. In the spirit of transparency and openness, however, the leaders announce to the organization that the analysis is under way, but that the likelihood of a move is exceedingly low. How will team members react? Will some become anxious? Will others presume a move and begin looking for a new role at a permanently local company? Will some team members trust the process? Will others complain and gripe about the potential move leading to lower morale? Will some ignore the process until a decision has been reached? Will others spread rumors as to where the new headquarters will be? Experience tells us all of the above will be true. Unfortunately, some valuable employees will leave in anticipation of a decision that never happens.
The idea that leaders can and should be fully transparent at all times is nonsense. More times than not, it simply creates a mountain of confusion and concern.
There is a difference between sharing information early in a decision process or later, once a decision is near at hand. Leaders must always balance the impact information will have on behavior and action. To hide or protect information until team members NEED to know is to treat people disrespectfully and like cogs in a wheel. But to presume people won’t act on information is both naïve and incompetent.
This is the push and pull of artful leadership and it is never easy. By the way, we’re exploring a new compensation model for your team, but don’t even start thinking about that!
P.S. On March 16, we are holding a live digital event that will focus on how Admired Leadership Digital could help your company. You will hear from key corporate leaders who have already used Admired Leadership inside their organizations. Register here today.