In this technological age where information remains available at everyone’s fingertips, a million-dollar question for corporate leaders is: How leaders can open up to their teams without oversharing? This willingness in leaders to be open and honest, even if it makes them vulnerable, is important because it builds. If a leader never shows emotion, that conviction only becomes stronger. However, people who overdo this accomplish just the opposite and can end up completely undermining themselves. If leaders share information that suggests they are not up to the task, there is a good chance their team will take on that same emotion, or worse, lose faith in their ability to lead.
A need to be authentic with our teams and create an environment of total transparency can lead to oversharing, but how do we know if we’ve gone too far in being authentic and transparent?
Transparency is a good thing when it comes to managing a team. It fosters trust between management and their colleagues, while also increasing engagement with the organisation as a whole.
Here are some thoughts for your review:
1. A Communication Culture
A good company culture is based on sound communication. This means that anytime we open up to the team members it needs to be for the better of the business, even if it’s in a roundabout way. So airing our frustrations with a certain company procedure or decision is unlikely to have a positive impact on the organization or on our team in the long run.
This doesn’t mean that we need to accept everything that happens within the business, as following decisions blindly can damage any relationship we’ve cultivated with our team. If we have concerns about something, let’s make sure we take a proactive approach. Tell employees that I have reservations or concerns about the situation and detail the steps I’m going to take to try and ensure there are no or lesser negative consequences. This is also a fantastic opportunity to get the insight of the team, further developing the culture of communication.
2. Relevance to the Situation
There’s nothing wrong with sharing our own thoughts or feelings with our team if it’s appropriate to the situation we’re in. But no one wants their manager telling them about their marriage problems in the middle of a business meeting. However, if we’re telling another professional our insight or experience related to a particular business problem they’re experiencing, it can be valuable and help to create the company culture many businesses strive for.
As a manager, our role is to provide support to the professionals on our teams. This means before sharing, we need to check that it’s helping them in some way, not that we’re trying to vent out our own problems.
3. What & How Much to Share
As part of the leadership team, we may be privy to information that the rest of the company isn’t. Do we share everything or keep it to ourselves? To answer this question we need to think about what employees would gain if we did tell them, and what could potentially be at risk. Confidential information should never be shared without the authorization of someone more senior but what about major business results or developments?
Chances are employees will already know that something is cooking up and may even ask questions about it. Instead of lying — which could hurt our relationship with them — tell them that it’s not been properly sorted yet and that there will be a company announcement soon. Sharing information is fine if it only impacts ourselves, but when other employees or the company as a whole is involved, we need to think twice to determine if we’re oversharing.
4. Neutralise the Emotions
Once we have digested the entire information, we need to know how to manage and how to communicate. This is as important as managing our teams. What we consider a momentary bad mood can ruin someone’s day. Reactive, hot-tempered managers are hurtful, demoralizing, and the main reason people quit their jobs.
Research shows that employees confronted by an angry manager are less willing to work hard — especially if they don’t understand where the anger is coming from. But when managers control their words and body language during tense situations, their reports’ stress levels drop significantly. Laszlo Bock, founder and CEO of Humu, and former head of HR at Google says:
An important part of being a leader is understanding how much weight the people around you can bear. You can’t burden your employees with more than they can carry, or expect them to hold you up all the time.
5. Know Your Audience
As leaders, delivering any management decision or bad news is something that we all have to do at some point. For example, we may need to tell our bosses that a major project is over budget, we might have to tell our team about lay-offs, and so on and so forth. There are many reasons why we might need to deliver bad news, which is why it’s important to know our teams, our audience, the organisational temperature, and how to deliver such feedback honestly, empathetically, and gracefully.
After all, the way we communicate bad news can have a direct impact on how the receiver perceives and reacts to the situation, and the way that we communicate in this difficult situation is likely to be remembered — either positively or negatively — for a long time.
Organisational leaders carry a lot of information inside their hearts and minds all the time. Let’s avoid throwing up that information all over the place. There is no need to be over-anxious about it. Finding the right balance between sharing and oversharing is the key and it is not that easy. But with practice, it can be done. As a leader, it’s our job to understand the powerful role our emotions play and to harness them in ways that will help our team succeed.
We typically find leaders asking themselves how much of their own worries they should reveal when leading their team down a challenging or unfamiliar road. The best leaders are honest about how they feel while simultaneously presenting a clear path forward. We argue that the way to find a balance between the two is to be selectively vulnerable — or open up to our teams while still prioritizing their boundaries, as well as our own.