One of the very top highlights of the week for me is going to church. I love the music, the message, and just hanging with others who are similarly seeking a connection with God. One of the things I do there every week is just pour my heart out to God. I usually just lay it all out there, the good and the bad. I believe He knows it all anyway but it’s a good practice to get it passed my lips. I always walk away with a renewed confidence that I am headed in the right direction, maybe with a few course corrections along the way. This process of sharing everything is important to me. The more I hold inside and think that no one knows, the more I am deceiving myself and trying to conceal behavior that I am not quite ready to give up. As I was bearing my heart this week, I was thinking about holding something back. Like I said, I think He knows it all anyway, but I don’t think I was ready to let it go. I thought through that a little bit and recognized that by holding this information back, I would be holding back progress in my life. As I considered that, I thought about how leaders, at times, hold information back. The motivation for doing that may be different but for some reason they are not ready to release the information. The idea that keeping information from some people gives you a perceived upper hand, is an arrogant mask for a sense that if you give up that information you may not be valuable. Keeping information from some people because they may not be ready for it, or the information may in some way cause them harm or undue burden is wisdom, but keeping it because you want the upper hand is an indication of a deeper issue.
For the most part, it would be hard to accuse me of intentionally holding back information from someone. Those of you who know me (including my blog partner Chris) know very well that I am free with information, sometimes to a fault. At times, I discern correctly that information cannot be shared, other times I do not. Being “in the know” is not a need for me, I would rather not know. Information can easily be a burden for me. That may be because I do not look at information as power, I look at information as empowering. I would rather be fired for sharing too much information than be kept in a job and not sharing enough information. This of course will keep me from working for the NSA but I am ok with that. As a leader, understanding the power of information is extremely important. Learning how and when to communicate information is a learned art and takes time. But intentionally holding back information so you can benefit from it a later time while others suffer from the lack will stunt the growth potential of your organization and create a culture of distrust. I do agree there is sensitive information that a leader will never be able to share – HR related events quickly come to mind. Employees personal issues that they share with you is completely off limits, but those are simple examples. What about when a peer shares a potential shift in the direction of a project. This direction change could be significant and cause a lot of tension or maybe a lot of re-work depending on the circumstance. Who would be better off with the team not knowing this information, you, or them? This gets tricky if someone on the team hears about it a different way and confronts you with the information. Why didn’t you say something? The questions will come. If you have an established track record of appropriately sharing information then you can respond and remain credible, if you have a history of withholding information, this will compound lack of trust and be extremely counter productive.
There are numerous situations to consider as a leader with information. Putting the best interest of the team and the mission ahead of your personal gain should be a hard and fast rule. Achieving the mission should provide you enough personal gain as a leader. If it does not, then you are involved with the wrong mission and for the sake of the team and the mission, quietly move on and align your life with the right work mission. I recently had to hold back information from my son and it nearly killed me. I won a GoPro camera but had to wait until it was shipped to my house. My wife and I decided to wait to tell him until it got there. I leaked some information out to his sisters that he would be getting something and within a day he confronted me and asked me what it was and when it was coming. Slap, right in my face. I had to admit something was coming but was tight lipped on what it was until it got there. I have a long way to go as an individual with regards to managing information. These little lessons teach me along the way. One thing I know for sure, nothing I have poured out on Sunday morning has ever come back to haunt me. The bar is set, I need to work to be as careful with information as God is. I have the rest of my life, so here it goes!