Avoiding the Cone of Silence
I think we all recognize the “cone of silence” from Get Smart. Information is kept highly confidential among a select few. On the screen, hilarity ensues and somehow the good guys manage to save the day. In the workplace, however, this kind of tight-lipped operation often leads to very negative consequences.
I think there is a fundamental flaw in the way many companies communicate. It starts at the top with the C-Suite, who also have full access to information: strategic plan, financials, competitive vulnerabilities, the works. As we move down the org chart, we see “filters” applied at each level. The c-suite isn’t completely keen on giving senior leadership all the nitty-gritty, so they pear it down to what they think is most important. Senior leadership does the same to the level below them, and so on.
A crippling choke point quickly develops as more and more information is peared away. The front-line team members, who have the greatest impact on day-to-day operations, and thereby holding the key to the company’s success, are left with the least amount of information.
Barriers to transparency
1. Trust - Sharing information requires trust. Maybe you don’t have confidence that your team member can’t handle knowing certain information, or have the ability to something useful with it. You hired them for a reason, let them do their jobs the best they can, by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need.
2. Risk - There is a certain amount of risk with complete transparency with things like financials. No doubt about it. But if you have the right butts in the right seats, it’s much less so. If you have any hope of success in business, you have to be willing to accept this.
3. Knowledge is Power - Maybe you just like holding all the cards. Sadly there are still managers out there who will withhold information because they are insecure about a subordinate taking their job.
Bottom line, your front-line team members are the lifeblood and the face of your company. The most stellar strategic plan isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on without dedicated, skilled team members to carry it out. Just knowing the direction of the company isn’t good enough, they need to know the details to help them course-correct on the fly and keep the goal in their sights.
Communicate with them constantly, share what’s going right, as well as what isn’t going well. Empower them to bring ideas of how we can improve. Make them part of the solution. You’ll be amazed at how much passion and energy they’ll bring to the table when they feel truly part of the team.