Communication: Squelching the Urge to Hoard

In sports, when the competition gains the lead, … when a star player fouls out, … when a team gets rattled, …when tension mounts,… the general inclination is to huddle and talk things over. What’s the problem? What changes do we need to make? Do we need a new strategy? What plays aren’t working? What else should we try?

Just the opposite often happens at work. When problems surface and tension mounts, the inclination is to stop talking. People start hoarding information. People crouch behind their computers and send flaming email when forced to communicate. Instead of fixing problems, they try to hide the gaffes from the guy or gal in the next department.

Instead of asking for feedback, they fear straightforward discussions with the boss. Instead of brainstorming for solutions, they distrust the colleague around the corner to assess a concern fairly.

As executives recount their experiences in the area of communication, they tend to divide people into two camps:

The successful who share information:

  • “We have a senior project manager who supervises several teams, sits in on many teleconferences, and attends many technology conferences. As soon as he gets back to the office, he’ll email a list of summarized items of important information to the rest of his staff who didn’t get to attend and other selected people with a note ‘just in case you were busy and missed it.’ He’s very effective with his teams and well liked.”
  • “Whatever the boss knows, she passes it on quickly—every morning in a staff meeting with her direct reports. That makes it easy to know what our priorities are for the day, to stay in tune with our customers, and to make any shifts in direction with the executive team.”
  • “The culture in my former company was this: ‘Try to make your footprint look really small.’ But my old boss didn’t buy into that. We were the acquired company on several occasions. And he never would ‘hide out’ in fear like others did. His attitude was, ‘We’re here—we’d like to work with you, the acquirer, and share our information. We can embrace change.’ He was respected for that.”
  • And those who hoard information:
  • “The president of the company eventually died of a heart attack—paranoid of sharing information. Being the only one with all the information put him in total control. He didn’t want people to meet without him. It got so bad that people would not speak up at all. It cost the company millions of dollars.”
  • “We have a guy we call ‘The White Knight.’ We’ll be working on a client project—ten steps. He’ll tell the consultants involved only eight of them. Then when they can’t get the project to fly, he comes in at the last minute with the missing information and saves the day. He does this repeatedly. He has created huge animosity among the team…. Many very good people are all looking for another job.”
  • “We had a senior engineer who’d never share any of his experience. We’d spend all this effort on a time-consuming engineering study, and when we’d finish the study and report the results, THEN he’d come forward with confrontational information to refute our study—information that she’d had all along. She withheld the information, rather than contribute to the study upfront, just to prove that she was smarter than we younger engineers. It was a habitual attitude of hers.”
  • “I’m a member of a large religious organization, where the leader’s a great motivator and visionary. But he’s made it clear that everyone else is only an implementer—that he has all the ideas and information. That organization’s going to die sooner or later.”

As you may have guessed, the group who guards information seems to be larger than the group who shares it. That ratio correlates to the ratio of those who succeed as leaders in an organization and those who don’t.

If you pick up the phone and call another department with information—any information—chances are, you’re well on your way to becoming a hero just for responding.

Those who share information demonstrate …

  • Leadership qualities
  • Big-picture thinking
  • Teamwork
  • Self-confidence
  • Maturity
  • Common sense

Those who hoard information demonstrate …

  • Territorialism
  • Limited vision
  • Poor self-management and organizational skills
  • Pettiness and insecurities

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Calling a huddle will rejuvenate your team and ultimately determine your success or failure as a leader.  Do you have a reputation for being the catalyst in bringing people together to share information?[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]