By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.
Knowledge is power. I’m sure you’re familiar with this expression. Stated another way, information is power. Withholding information keeps others in the dark and at best is irritating to them. Intentionally withholding information has a negative impact on others while simultaneously giving the person withholding that information power. The person who determines who needs to know has the power; the person who wants to know has a feeling of being annoyed. Have you ever been in the dark about a meeting at work or not invited to a party? Has anyone ever sent an email that you should have been copied on and weren’t? Have you ever been the last person to learn about something? Withholding information is not only annoying, it leads to mistrust. Withholding information comes in two forms: intentional and unintentional. Intentionally withholding information is manipulative, and someone who practices this is not someone I want to help. Unintentionally or accidentally withholding information is a habit that is easy to fall into, something many of us are guilty of. This is a very important aspect of leadership that can be dealt with.
Most leaders today are very busy with a great number of tasks that need to be completed, each task with their own sense of urgency. In our haste to get things checked off our things to do list, it is easy to be so busy we don’t get back to others in a timely fashion. Too often we delegate tasks to subordinates without taking the time to let them know exactly what the desired outcome looks like. Then we get frustrated when the project or task is done, and it doesn’t look like what we wanted. Who is to blame in that situation? The person who withheld information!
The majority of leaders that I know and have worked with do not intentionally withhold information to manipulate others and gain power, they withhold information and don’t even realize they’re doing it. The majority of leaders mean well and have good intentions, they are simply busy! Getting in the habit of bad information sharing takes its toll. Over time, it looks like information is not being shared on purpose. Over time, whether you withhold information on purpose or not, it looks the same to other members of the organization.
How do you stop? Simply put, you share it! Effective leaders make time and make it a priority to share information! Schedule time to share information with others; time that cannot be cancelled, postponed or interrupted. Practicing this habit will improve your communication and show that you care about other members of the organization. Everyone is on a need to know basis. It’s something effective leaders do!
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