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Friday, September 29, 2020

Freeing-up Information


Many leaders seem to act on the old assumption that information is power, sharing it unwillingly and trying to keep others in the dark as much as possible. I’ve noted before that subordinates copy whatever the leaders around them do. If you create an environment of secrecy and information hoarding, you’ll quickly build suspicion and a “silo” mentality. That’s why most organizations find internal cooperation difficult: their leaders have created a culture of mistrust between department and divisions by setting a tone of secrecy and withholding information from the majority.

It’s said that becoming an expert, or an executive, means never having to admit that you don’t know or were wrong . . . or to say that you are sorry either.
Of course, withholding information also saves time. You can simply bark orders and walk away to your next meeting, then blame your subordinates if they don’t do what you wanted, even if you failed to tell them clearly what that was. Cultivating a reputation for keeping important data to yourself also means you won’t be found out when you don’t know the answer yourself, either. It’s said that becoming an expert, or an executive, means never having to admit that you don’t know or were wrong . . . or to say that you are sorry either.

People who are kept in the dark, soon come to believe they aren’t seen as valuable members of the organization or team. Remember the old saying about “mushroom management?” How it’s based on keeping people in the dark and heaping sh*t on them? Even the owners of small businesses aren’t immune from this disease. Because it’s their business, they treat information about it—especially financial data—as private to them only.

Today’s “Hamburger Management” style contains the underlying assumption that subordinates are best kept away from any information that falls into one or more of these categories:
  • Information that might lead them to question the decisions of those above them.

  • Information that might make the bosses appear in a less than perfect light.

  • Anything that could slow down their work by causing them to think or ask questions.

  • Data that is judged too complex for their obviously limited mental capacities.

  • Anything that the bosses don’t understand themselves (which is usually quite a lot).
Where speed and “near enough” attitudes to quality rule, and short-term profits are the only objectives worth considering, taking time out to think, question, discover new ideas, or ask whether the data says what everyone thinks it says, are all considered a waste of time. Of course, they are also the exact steps needed to stay ahead of the competition in the long term, but who gives a **** about the long term anyhow? By that time, today’s whiz-kid boss will be somewhere else, with even more share options and complete amnesia about the events of the past.

Good leaders have never fallen for such nonsense. They know that their subordinates are the best source of ideas to make the leader look good, and sharp eyes and ears to catch mistakes before they ruin the boss’s credibility.
I guess this sounds cynical, but it’s hard to stay away from such thoughts when faced with conventional management attitudes. Good leaders have never fallen for such nonsense. They know that their subordinates are the best source of ideas to make the leader look good, and sharp eyes and ears to catch mistakes before they ruin the boss’s credibility. You can’t get that kind of priceless support if you keep everyone around you in the dark. Nor will you keep it, if you don’t give the right people credit for those great ideas the board members thought were worth a bonus for you. Good leaders are worth every penny they get precisely because they produce good subordinates and teams. And all those subordinates are both the backbone of today’s business, and the breeding ground for tomorrow’s leaders. Never mind if the idea came from one of their team. They are the people who listened and recognized it for what it was.

Instead of the assumption that information should be handed out strictly on a “need to know” basis, try reversing this and share everything, except where there’s a “need not to know.”
You should view all information as available to everyone, unless there’s a clear reason for restricting its availability. Instead of the assumption that information should be handed out strictly on a “need to know” basis, try reversing this and share everything, except where there’s a “need not to know.” Nothing makes people feel devalued faster than being deliberately kept in the dark about things that affect them. And by preventing them from understanding events fully, you stop them from contributing any ideas at all. A boss who does that, no matter what short-term profits he or she conjures up, is not worth either their salary or their inflated job title.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous said...

You don't know how right you are. Absolutely brilliant piece.

Now, my question to you is how I can get the URL to my boss in a surreptitious manner? :)

9:35 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Hmmm . . . I don't know if I can help you with that one!

Maybe I should do a piece calculated to appeal to bosses (perhaps I could call it "How to get your subordinates to make YOU look good all the time") and embed the link somwhere.

Thanks for your support and keep reading, my friend.

9:45 AM  

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