Transparency builds trust. Too many leaders have a habit of holding back information, which can look like information-hoarding, or secret-keeping. Those behaviors hurt trust.
But, leaders also know when to stop; leaders will avoid the temptation to share TOO much information.
Leaders share information, as appropriate, to:
a- keep people informed
b- keep people from wondering
c- project confidence and security
Examples of information-hoarding:
“Everything is fine and will continue as always around here. Don’t let the rumors get to you.”
“We’re not sure why the plane isn’t going to take off as scheduled. We’re just going to sit tight on the tarmac here.”
Examples of transparency:
“The rumors are painting a worst-case scenario. The reality is, we’re in discussions right now on how to trim $300,000 from the budget enterprise-wide. We will know more next week Friday, and I’ll share that information with you as soon as I have it.”
“There’s a disabled plane on the runway; we’re not sure how long it will take to clear it, but we have to sit tight until they do. I wish I could tell you how long it will take, but we just don’t know. Sometimes it takes 10 minutes, sometimes an hour; once we know how bad it is, we’ll let you know.”
Examples of over-sharing:
“You think you’re scared? I’ve been tasked to eliminate $120,000 by trimming some discretionary, and by eliminating a position. No matter what happens, it will hurt the department, and it will hurt me. I’ve been losing sleep over this for weeks, believe me.”
“Yup, we’re stuck on the tarmac. Disabled plane. If we’re here for more than an hour, then we’ll have to take you back to the gate and many of you will miss your connections. With the weather in Chicago, some of you could be stuck for days. Catering also shorted us on bottled water. And, this crew needs to be in Palm Beach by 9. You think you’ve got it bad now? Could get worse, way worse, and we are in a pretty foul mood up here in the cockpit, too, believe you me. Oh, wait, they’ve cleared it and we’re third in line. Never-mind. We’ll be in the air in 15 minutes. Enjoy your flight.”
Where’s the line? Finding it is certainly an art. Here’s one measuring stick to help guide you:
Leaders might share too much information when they are insecure, “trying too hard,” or are too stressed and looking for sympathy.