The TMI of Leadership

by Jennifer Miller on September 29, 2009

in Leadership, Team Effectiveness

The other day, I was having a discussion with a training manager named Sally.  Her staff designs training for her company’s field sales force. Sally works for a large organization that has a reputation for promoting from within. Here’s what we were discussing: Leaders higher up in her organization have noticed that when the sales people apply for a Sales Manager job, during the interview process they are often unaware of some of the tasks required of the role.  For example, the sales reps are often surprised at the amount of paperwork required. Or, they don’t have a clear vision of the mix of strategic versus tactical tasks that the role requires.

As we were discussing this, Sally said, “Well of course they don’t have any idea about the paperwork! Why should they?  As a manager, I view my job as shielding them from some of the more tedious tasks of supervision.  I want them focusing on their job, not worrying about what my job is.  Do you think that’s wrong of me? Am I preventing them from information that will help them if they want to get promoted?”

It’s a really great question.  So much is made these days of having leadership that’s transparent.  But how transparent? How much information is too much?  What is it that leaders should be sharing with their employees and what’s best to leave out?  This list could be very long, so let’s just focus on a few . . .

Don’t Share

Confidential or privileged information. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s tempting sometimes to share tidbits with a trusted employee.  Perhaps you need a sounding board, or you’re trying to ferret out the truth about a rumor circulating in a department.  Steer clear of your employees.  This will only blow up in your face.

Your sources.  Along the same lines, if someone gives you some scoop, do not you divulge your source. You erode the trust of the person who fed you the information. The only exception to this is if you perceive someone’s health or life to be endangered.

Maybe Share

Your frustrations as a leader. If done properly, this can help show that as a leader, you’re human too.  This is not about venting every last frustration with your team.  This is about acknowledging, that “yes, the new initiative that senior management has launched seems a bit light on details and yes, it’s going to create massive extra work.  And, yes, I’m confused and annoyed too, but we’re gonna figure this out together.” It shows that you aren’t immune to what can sometimes be a very counterproductive workplace.

The behind-the-scenes life of a leader. For those employees who’ve expressed interest in taking on a formal leadership role via supervision, it might be a good idea to let them in on some of the lesser-known details like performance review administration and the challenges (but not the specifics) of employee coaching/counseling. Leadership expert and practicing corporate Learning and Development manager Dan McCarthy has talked about this both on comments on other blogs and on his blog about how to develop leaders.  His company even goes so far as to have a “So You Want to Be a Leader?” course for prospective new supervisors.

Do Share

Company/Department business information.  It’s amazing to me how many leaders still don’t share the overall department or company goals/objectives with employees in a consistent way.  Just the other day, I had a department head ask me, “I’m thinking of doing an off-site and sharing the company’s overall goals with the employees. Do you think that would be worthwhile?” Yep, I do. Employees need to see how their daily activities feed into and advance the broader organizational goals.

Successes and celebrations.  If you want your people to work as a team, be the first person to step up and call out positive contributions.  Find ways to encourage people publicly and to sincerely thank them. Celebrate your team’s victories, both large and small.  “Celebrations” can be something as simple as a two-minute huddle with the staff to say “good job!” on achieving a recent milestone.

Clearly, for a leader to be fully effective, these lists must be longer.  As a leader, what’s on your Don’t Share, Maybe Share and Do Share list?  If you coach leaders, what do you counsel them in the way of steering clear of TMI—Too Much Information?

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: