Leaders – Do You Seek What’s Being Hidden From You?

Since I started my business career, I have been fortunate to work for several large companies.  I have experienced many times my manager wanting to ‘fix’ something before the higher level executive found out what was happening.  But, is the ‘hiding’ good for a company or not?  When does the ‘hiding’ behavior put the company at risk?

Obviously, you cannot run to the top person and reveal everything that is going on with the day-to-day operations.   Nor do I think higher level person generally wants to hear every little thing that happens on a daily basis.  But at some point, it is important to understand what the leader wants to know and more importantly, expects to know about business challenges.

So, as a leader, do you realize that you probably have certain things hidden from you?  If you are a manager, please be honest and think about the times you scrambled to get something corrected before there was impact.  What do you think would happen to your job if the fix did not go well?

How do you even begin to figure out what to do about this mostly un-talked about communication problem?  Here are a few of my ideas how to get started:

‘C level’ group, communicate your expectations:

  • Decide what is considered an escalation item
  • Categorize with severity levels*
    • High – Anything that will threaten the business or client or loss thereof
    • Medium – If the situation cannot be corrected within a certain timeframe
    • Low – Temporary laps of business or client impact
*Parameters must be set by each company their level of severity
  • Set communication standards
    • How do you want to receive notification (Call, E-mail, Formal documentation or all of the above)
    • How do you want to receive updates
  • Be sure to have management meetings often to create open communication
    • It is important to have all managers working for the same ultimate goal
      • Ensure managers have internal meetings to assure goals are met to lessen impact on the business and clients
    • Schedule skip-level meetings
      • Make sure you have a strong line of communication with the entire staff
      • Encourage going to the manager first (of course) but ensure you foster a communicative environment
    • Be open to helping with something that may seem minor but takes a lot of employee time
      • Remember, time costs money when it comes to productivity
      • If people are spending a lot of time doing repetitive task and some money can be spent to help productivity, then you can free up those employees to more value-added tasks
If you are a department manager, ensure you and other managers are aligned with common goals
  • Ensure you create your high, medium, and low thresholds and perhaps, each group may need its own levels
  • All managers should agree together common goals based on the overall company goals
  • Conduct weekly team meetings with your staff
    • Make sure you know what is going on with each person
    • Schedule 1-1’s with each individual on your team
If you are an employee, make sure you have regularly scheduled meetings with your manager
  • Make your time productive
    • Ensure you go over what is going right and what challenges you may have
      • With problems, come to the meeting with ideas on solutions
      • Get direction how much power you have to make ‘on-the-spot’ decisions
    • Make sure your manager helps you resolve the issue
      • If the manager does not push up a level if the issue is severe, start pushing up the chain of command
      • If the matter cannot be resolved to the client’s satisfaction because the company is unwilling to make the change or enhancement, make sure your manager is on the call to explain the company’s position with you**
**The message always goes a bit smoother when there is someone in leadership on the phone or onsite with you.  Clients want to feel they are getting special attention.

I have worked for several executives that have totally impressed me with their leadership style.  Here are examples of what they did that showed they not only cared about the business but ensured everyone knew they were serious about the success of employees, the division, and the company.

I had just joined a large corporation and immediately, we had an ‘all hands’ onsite meeting.  We had a huge group, and many crammed into what seemed to be a large conference room until everyone finally showed up. A top executive kicked off the meeting. The meeting ensued with each manager talking about their goals and individual employees giving a quick presentation about what they did to succeed with clients.

After the onsite meeting, the President came to another peer and me asking us to come to his office and meet with him.  He wanted to talk to us about our thoughts on what enhancements should be considered for the following year.

What was surprising about this requested meeting was I, and the coworker were many job levels down from the President.  When I think about it now, he really wanted to understand our view of what was going on. So, when we were lead to the conference room by his assistant, we were wondering actually what we were in for and how we should handle things as he questioned us.

When he walked into the room, he surprised me.  He said, “Thank you both for coming to talk to me.  I want you to know that when I close this door, there should be no fear of repercussion.  I want to know the truth.” We were both shocked but knew this guy wanted to understand what we were dealing with when it came to clients and what we could do to make our offering, applications and processes better.  It was a fantastic meeting and I really admired him for seeking out the truth.  He knew he was being shielded from the truth and honestly, wanted to know what he could do to help.

After our meeting, he thanked us for being honest with him, and he was aware that the path he was going to take moving forward along with the right enhancements that would make the most impact for our clients, and help us in the process.

I was extremely impressed with this leader and realized how important it was for me to do the same with my team.  Fostering lines of honest communication became very important to me.  Gaining trust with my team helped me so much as a new leader in the organization.

I also have encountered another leader who just wandered into an already in progress meeting.  Many of us were from out-of-town and were at our headquarters for a meeting.  Of course, everyone was a bit on edge wondering what was going on but merely, this leader wanted to seek out the truth. When we came up with a few issues we had, this leader said, “Then let’s fix this.  What do we have to do to get it fixed?  Let me know the resolution and I will approve it.”

Again, another leader taking the lead to be proactive in understanding what is needed and making success happen.

So, is a company at risk if people do not communicate effectively?  You bet! Set expectations for communication.  As we have all heard before, communication is the key to success.  Communicate from the top down and then from the bottom up.


Robin Anderson
Robin Anderson
ROBIN Anderson earned her BBA and MBA from Averett University and graduated with a 3.88 GPA. She is also a member of the Pinnacle National Honor Society and a member of the Institute of Financial Operations as well as served on the Strategic Advisory Committee for several years and has been a speaker for 4 years at the National Convention. Robin also speaks for the IOFM, AP Now and Tomorrow and Averett University. Robin volunteers her time with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the ALS Association, and speaking for Averett University.

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  1. Excellent article and example of what honest communications are about. Frequently the message is cleansed as it rises up the organizational hierarchy. Those brave enough to speak the truth are rarely backed up by peers for fear of repercussions. Thank you for eloquently describing and giving solutions to the elephant in the room syndrome.

    • Thank you Raissa and you raise excellent points! Being brave sometimes will cause someone speaking up in bad light with management. But, I strongly feel leaders need to stop and listen for once. But, like you said, it is the ‘elephant in the room’ for certain!!