Sunday, December 28, 2008
I walked into the main office where all the HMs were sitting and talking and asked if everyone had attended training. One of the HMs said pointedly, "Some of us did, ma'am."
The LPO laughed.
I was speechless for a moment, then said, "What a great leadership example you set." I turned and walked back to my office. They went to lunch.
When the corpsmen came back, the LPO stuck his head in my office. "Ma'am, I just wanted to let you know that I took what you said to heart. I'll be going to the afternoon training session."
It has been several weeks and I am still angry about it. I don't understand why this still infuriates me. Part of the problem is this LPO is a cross-rate---he did not attain second class in the HM field, but exposure to the fleet should have impressed upon him the importance of setting the example and completing mandatory training, no matter how much a waste of time the training may be.
This article, Betrayed? 7 Steps for Healing, provides a good process to work through the feelings aroused by betrayal or a loss of trust. I'm pretty sure my HMs have already worked through the first step (Observe and acknowledge what has happened) and have moved on. The LPO came to my office and apologized for his behavior later that day so we've also accomplished step 2: Allow feelings to surface.
Step 3 says to Give employees support. I am still finding it difficult to be in the same room with this person---I feel uncomfortable in his presence...which makes me angry at myself. I sent an email message to him stating I was still available for mentoring and coaching, but he never responded, so I can only imagine he is just as uncomfortable.
In order for me to work through this, step 4 suggests Reframe the experience. In this step, I have to look at the role I played in this issue. Clearly, I did not have him think through the scheduling of training attendance: having all HMs but one at the morning session would not allow flexibility for emergencies within the clinic. In discussing this issue with the Senior Enlisted Advisor and the Department Head, I have realized that my leadership efforts and input are neither wanted nor desired. Asking myself questions like "How can I change my response?", "What choices or options do I have now?" or "What can I learn about myself and others from this experience?" gives me valuable insight into myself and my own actions and responses.
In step 5, they suggest I Take responsibility. I should ask myself, "What can I do now? What is in my control and what isn't? What can I do to make a difference?" In this case, I can simply give away control (ha! I never had it!) and refer questions on any clinic operations to the Department Head for action.
Step 6 is the hardest: Forgive. I must free myself of the anger, bitterness and resentment. "What needs to be said or done to put this issue to rest?" My biggest complaint here is the lack of communication and my lack of inclusion in clinic operations.
Finally, step 7 is Let it go and move on. As with Kubler-Ross's work on the stages of death and dying, I will not be able to accomplish these steps in order and all at once---it takes time. I love the model posted at the top of this article.
Click here for more information about the Reina Trust Building Institute and their book, "Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace: Building Effective Relationships in Your Organization, 2nd Edition (2008)."
Saturday, November 22, 2008
This article from Provider Magazine, Creative Tasks Spark Imagination, outlines three techniques used in a long term care facility for residents along the continuum of memory impairments (from none to late-stage Alzheimer's or dementia). The first technique is based on Timeslips, which promotes social interaction. It helps to reduce the isolation that many persons with dementia may experience.
The second technique involves storyboarding which can be done by the resident or by the family, if the resident is not able to participate. Upon completion of the storyboard, a celebration is held to celebrate the individual's life.
In the third technique, individuals write their life stories in a 6-10 week storytelling workshop.
What I found most satisfying are the ending paragraphs:
"Many facilities have implemented these activities for their residents, and in some cases, reported increased wellbeing and cognitive functioning among participating residents. Implementing these creativity tools supports, encourages, and inspires residents, their families, and staff.
"These stories touch people in remarkable ways, no matter what age or ability."
I also found storyboarding for personal growth an interesting topic in itself. 37 Days discusses her experiences with storyboarding and this writer demonstrates how it can be done:
Monday, September 22, 2008
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, his jacket is here and the light is on, but no one's seen him today. We've called his cell phone and it just rings and rings."
Dread consumed me. Today was the anniversary of LT Willman's death and it had been on my mind for the past week. "Do we have anyone we could send to his house?"
"We could have earlier, but now we're down staff."
"Let me see what I can do." I called his cell phone and it rang just as HM3 said. I found the recall bill with his landline phone and called it, saying I was worried about him and could he call back as soon as possible. I told the Department Head our HM2 was not available and I was going to call Base Security.
"Why not send one of the HNs?" he asked.
"Because if it's something bad, I don't want to wreck the corpsman."
I called Security and asked the Dispatch if they could send a patrolman to do a courtesy call for us. I explained that we had left messages on the HM2's cell phone and landline and HM2 was normally at work before all of us. I also explained that HM2 suffered from PTSD and his spouse was deployed. "Let me talk to the Watch Commander," she said. I waited on hold.
HM3 popped into the doorway. "HM2 just called. His dog knocked his cell phone off the table and he overslept." Relief flooded my brain and my shoulders relaxed. When the dispatch operator returned, I explained we didn't need their services after all.
When HM2 got into work, I sat down with him and talked to him about suicide. "You don't have to worry about me," he responded.
"But I do," I said. I told him about LT Willman and how he was the last person who anyone would have believed would die at his own hand. I still have his request for the PICC line course in a folder in my desk. Such a silly thing to hold on to. I used to drive by his house in the weeks following his death, looking at the yellow police tape barricading the doors. I told the psychiatrist that I did this. Why? he asked. I'm not sure, I said. I guess I believe that one of these times when I drive past, the yellow tape will be gone, and he'll be in his yard, waving and telling me, "No worries, ma'am."
No worries, ma'am.
Link to suicide screening for primary care clinics: Screening
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Twenty Indicators of Failing at Leadership
My favorite leadership failure indicators from his list:
- Leaders who begin their responses to others’ suggestions or ideas with “no”, “but” or “however.”
This one happens all the time. Currently, my department is pushing through a space utilization request. I've had staff at every level of the approval process tell me, "You know that this space is already spoken for, right?"
- Leaders who rationalize counter-productive processes, procedures and nonsensical bureaucratic practices by saying: “That’s just the way it is.”
Oftentimes, it takes more energy to keep the status quo than to consider an alternative. I wanted to do a replication research project when I first got here and was rebuffed. "It'll take too long to get the project approved."
- Leaders who become defensive every time someone questions, or is curious about, one of their thoughts, beliefs or decisions.
Fortunately, we've had a regime change and it appears the newly-instated leadership is open and accepting, which was not middle management's experience with the previous occupants of the C-suite.
- Leaders who are scattered, unfocused and unbalanced—be it mentally, emotionally or physically.
If you don't make a decision, then you can't be accused of making a bad decision, right?
- Leaders who are a source of weakness, confusion and passing the buck in a stressful and uncertain environment.
My director scheduled a call to a specialist in a project I was working on. He commandeered the conversation and asked questions I already knew the answers to and failed to ask the questions for which I needed information. He made both of us look foolish and ill-prepared and wasted this other person's time.
Fortunately, Vajda also offers antidotes to these leadership problems through self-reflection with directed questions. I would encourage you to read them for personal insight and work. I know I used to consider being an expert clinician the height of professionalism. I'm coming up on the two-year anniversary of LT Willman's death and another well-respected nurse attempted suicide this past month. Real leadership is hands-on and messy.
So, how do YOU feel about the idea that “soft skills” are so important to defining your career as a successful leader?
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Several people stood and asked their questions and were answered politely with every response staying on message. Evidently, this senior leader had extensive media training and, as my husband remarked, didn't get this high by being stupid or making stupid comments.
At least, until I stood and asked my question. This senior leader look over my shoulder at someone then stared directly at me. "I see your director looks like he's sucking on a lemon," he said. He added, "And it's not a sweet lemon." He said a few more words about this lemon and my director's facial expressions, then started comparing our workplace and mission to our mainland counterparts who are also somewhat geographically isolated.
While my intent was certainly not to embarrass this official nor to make life difficult for myself, it served only to indicate the level of intimidation that is present in this type of environment and it also served to illustrate that these cattle calls require attendees to ask only those questions that are bland and inoffensive.
How much simpler would it have been to respond, "You know, that is an interesting question. I don't know the answer, but I will definitely look into it. Thank you for asking." I would have considered him to be a gracious and thoughtful leader who honestly and sincerely valued my input.
In this exchange, I lost face with my director for embarrassing him and I damaged my own credibility with my peers. On the other hand, this senior leader lost substantially more in the ridiculous comparisons between Guam, 29 Palms, Oak Harbor, and Lemoore. If a patient is taken to anyone of those hospitals and requires more comprehensive treatment, the patient can always be medevac'd, just as a patient can be medevac'd from Guam. But it takes at least 4 hours to fly to Okinawa and 7 1/2 hours to Hawaii...providing the patient and the airplane are ready to go right that minute. From 29 Palms you could be in Los Angeles or San Diego in considerably less than 7 1/2 hours...and you don't have to worry about altitude either.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
"Get yourself to sick call," I replied. "You need to be SIQ [Sick in Quarters]."
"I would, but the Division Officer said she would call in another corpsman to cover for me and those corpsmen have already worked three shifts."
He told me there were 8 patients and 3 would be discharged home. They had another nurse working who had been a corpsman herself, an LPN, a ward clerk, and an orienting corpsman. "That's more than enough to handle the workload," I said.
"That's what I thought," he said wearily as he forced his body out of the chair to return to the ward.
I thought of all the leadership books I've read, the ones I've made notes in, the ones I've loaned out. I sat in on the ranking board for the lieutenants and listened to the senior leaders ponder the limbo between being honest and being kind. This nurse is more concerned with herself, how she ranks among other nurses, and how she can accumulate collateral duties and accolades to improve her standing within the command than she is about being kind and doing the right thing.
I can still remember her venting when a newly-reporting lieutenant had asked if she could leave early. "She left early on Tuesday, and now she wants to leave early today!"
I reminded her that this lieutenant had only been on island for two months and still had errands and obligations tied to moving. "Cut her some slack," I advised.
She fumed, "When is it going to end?"
In retrospect, I believe she really wanted me to recognize that she was doing hard work, which I did, but I didn't acknowledge it aloud to her. So I failed her. And I have to wonder, at what rank do you need to give up the notion of "atta boys" and kudos? Or is this something we all crave no matter our status?
When you do the right thing for your people---that's when you can persuade those people that the journey with you will be interesting and challenging, that's when you can demonstrate to those people that they will gain much and learn more, that's when you know you are truly a leader...and not just someone out taking a walk.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Instead of encouraging healthy sustainable improvements, competition (as in “the best”) can actually provoke schadenfreude (glee in another’s downfall) and off-track searches for armor chinks. Collaborative leadership looks to the bigger picture, to the mission and accomplishments of the larger organization that create opportunities for all to benefit.
Abrashoff uses the nautical theme to organize his material into eight chapters:
Ahoy – Welcome aboard our ship.
In this chapter, Abrashoff describes one of the techniques he used on the USS Benfold to welcome new sailors and describes learning good and poor leadership in his experiences on the Benfold. He highlights the practices of developing a company “World Tour,” where new employees receive a “passport” with lists of to-do training and customer-service classes. Another company hired its best customers, resulting in a turnover rate of less than 10% while competitors routinely face 70% turnover rates. Companies must continue to recruit people even after they’re onboard.
Buoy up your people – inspiring everyone to be their best.
In this chapter, he states, “A great leader defines excellence and then inspires his team to exceed it through training and staff development.” He then reviews several companies who have developed innovative training programs.
No more aye-aye men (or women) – cultivating truth-telling.
Wishful thinking is dangerous and he gives suggestions on how to deliver bad news and how to keep communication flowing up and down. Honesty and integrity are to be nurtured and encouraged.
All hands on deck – unifying a crew.
Abrashoff says, “Mindless rivalry leads to backstabbing, an ethos of every man for himself, and probably unit failure when danger threatens.” He adds, “Nothing beats the power of unifying disparate people, of showing them the magic of working with and for each other instead of against each other. Quite simply, the first law of leadership in today’s world is to give people irresistible incentives to collaborate for a purpose that enhances everyone.”
Foul weather doesn’t respect rank – creating a climate of trust.
An ancient proverb says a fish rots from the head down. Abrashoff discusses the importance of developing trust, pursuing excellence without arrogance, and treating all with courtesy and respect. He also reviews the principle of fairness and justice.
Navigate by the stars – Clarifying what it’s all about.
Do you know the mission of your organization? Then you have to communicate, focus on what matters, and teach your organization’s core values.
Sail close to the wind – taking the right risks.
Good leaders calculate the odds so risks are minimized.
Fly your true colors – Leading by example and getting results.
Abrashoff discusses the importance of courage. A leader’s main function is to set the right example and leaders can be found at all levels throughout an organization. It’s important to know that good leadership can inspire people to do their best everyday.
In conclusion, collaborative leadership is what makes an organization unbeatable. I highly recommend this book for the interesting situations and the vivid examples leaders at any level can put into play at their companies.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
In the passageway this afternoon, the Division Officer for the Emergency Department confided to me that she had told C she was so sorry. C whitened and gave a little gasp. "Is the list out?" she wanted to know.
"You don't know?" the Division Officer asked.
"No," C replied. "I've been checking the message boards constantly." So our esteemed Director for Nursing Services took the cowardly way out of delivering bad news---he let someone else do it inadvertently.
The Division Officer also told me the Director for Nursing Services failed to contact the candidates for the DUINS program (Duty Under Instruction----full-time graduate schooling) who were not selected at this last board. "'I can't get in touch with them," he said,'" she told me. "Well, that's BS because I had no problems contacting them. He just didn't want to be the one telling them the bad news."
Leaders don't get to give only good news. Being able to give bad news and temper it with constructive thought on being competitive the next go-round is a vital communication skill and can make the difference between having a demoralized worker and one energized with a plan for success the next time.
Dr Robert Buckman, an oncologist, knows how difficult it is to deliver bad news. He suggests active listening and kindly communicating reality. When the reality hits, it's important to legitimize the emotions, but not to become emotional yourself.
Perhaps I should be kind and understanding---but I can't. When you wear the rank of CAPTAIN, you lose the privilege to delegate the hard tasks to your subordinates. That's why you're the captain.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
http://nursingworld.org/ce/cecatalog.cfm While many require fees, there are two free CEU courses here. Check back periodically for new free courses.
http://www.medscape.com You can establish a homepage based on your specialty; the site requires free registration. It also offers a CE tracker and you can add CE units completed from other sources to maintain an accurate count (great for supplementing your brag sheet when midterms and fitrep periods roll around)
http://www.medpagetoday.com This site also requires free registration and can track CE.
http://www.netce.com/search.php This site has two free courses: Sepsis and HIV. Check back periodically for new free courses.
http://www.jhasin.com/template.cfm?TEMPLATE=include_viewprograms.cfm This site from Johns Hopkins offers a variety of courses. The additional benefit is occasional monograph mailings that enable you to complete CE readings and tests while you're away from a computer.
http://www.mededtoday.com This web site is sponsored by NovoNordisk and has free CEUs for the Registered Nurse and the Nurse Practitioner on a variety of topics.
http://www.cme-today.com This site offers a subscription service for monographs and CEUs. You can also complete CEUs online.
http://www.pcna.net/ This site, sponsored by the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association provides several free CEUs and a host of additional information on cardiovascular health (considering joining!).
http://www.cmezone.com This website offers free CEUs on a variety of topics. Free registration.
Additional CEUs can be found at sponsoring pharmaceutical and hospital equipment sites. They include:
Make your nursing memberships count. See if free CEUs are offered as part of your membership benefits.
Another option that is becoming available is CE via MP3 or podcast. These allow you to listen through your MP3 player while you do other things.
No one should have to pay for CEU's---unless they want to.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I am in the process of trying to establish a DSME committee that would have physician oversight with a multi-disciplinary membership. My hope is that the training would continue to be evidence-based and provide a pool of qualified and respected instructors.
A wonderful resource for teaching is found on the University of Michigan web site. While I was waiting for everyone to show for class, I had them fill out this questionnaire on concerns that might interfere with learning about or managing their diabetes. I was amazed at the responses and so gratified that these individuals would trust me with this private information.
One of my colleagues in the Health Promotions Department is more jaded and cynical. I had two no-shows for this class and I contacted them afterwards to discover what barriers or obstacles prevented them from coming. My colleague said, "If you offered bingo along with the class, a $100 pay-out and free cards, you wouldn't have anyone making excuses for not attending. In fact, they would call in sick to work in order to attend!"
I don't want to believe that of my patients. I would prefer to believe that they have other needs more pressing that prevent them from making their healthcare a priority in their lives: grandchildren who must be reared, power bills that must be paid (and no money to pay), fears and worries that so overwhelm them that no action is preferable to making the wrong decision. And so, I am entering this contest to win a book, "The Big Book of Diabetic Desserts, written by Jackie Mills MS, RD. My hope is to have a prize to offer one of my patients. Our Health Promotions Department has funds for purchasing patient education materials, but they cannot fund giveaways or incentives. Consequently, I buy trinkets out of my own pocket. I currently have about 950 Unite for Diabetes pins to distribute to my patients (I started with 1,000 pins). Of course, they're not purchased from the Diabetes web site; I had them made by a Chinese company in Shenzhen, just across from Hong Kong, because a 10-pack of pins cost 30 Euros.
Friday, February 15, 2008
The spouse envisioned the following dialogue:
Detailer: I have a great duty station for you. How does Guam sound?
Prospective SNE/DNS: Thanks, but I think I'll resign my commission.
Detailer: But you only have 19 years in. You'll lose millions!
Prospective SNE/DNS: Let's see, what is that address again? Oh yeah, jobsearch.com. Be seeing ya.
When one of the department heads said, "Well, the Frank Cable managed to give 113 awards to sailors for THEIR role in the incident," the CO said, "That never happened." Then the Public Affairs Officer cleared his throat and said he could provide the article from the Pacific Navigator.
Rumor has it that the command was submitted for a UNIT award and it was turned down...even though we were lauded throughout the Navy for our medical care.
And they wonder why there is a recruiting and retention problem for Naval Hospital Guam.
In the CO's call yesterday, he showed us two books that were passed out at the Surgeon General's conference: "Made to Stick" and "The Second Rule." I read the first and would like to read the second (I think it's on my wish list….just haven't had justification to pay for it because I have so many other books in the queue). I would recommend the CO read a few other books. My suggestions? "The Carrot Principle," "It's Okay to be the Boss," "It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy," and "First, Break all the Rules: What the World's Best Managers Do Differently."
All of these books state definitively that recruitment and retention efforts fail or succeed at the supervisor level and that recognition is what people crave most.
The CO can say, "Naval Hospital Guam gets kudos from all over the Navy," but until he puts his money where his mouth is and we see awards for people other than those who donated "multiple off-duty hours" to coordinating the Navy Ball (give me a break), he has no credibility for me.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Several years ago, I completed a nomination for one of my colleagues for her volunteer services within the community. When I submitted the nomination up the chain-of-command, the Director looked up at me from behind her desk and said, "Thanks. I meant to do this but ran out of time." The problem is I was a lieutenant taking the time to recognize the activities of a fellow lieutenant and the director was a captain, our immediate supervisor.
If you are truly taking care of your people, how can you possibly run out of time to recognize their good works?
The only praise that doesn't work is the hollow praise of "Good job." It doesn't take much to personalize it and to let the recipient know exactly what the "good job" constitutes. The phrase that pays says, "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."
POINTED PRAISE PRODUCES BETTER RESULTS
Recognition without specifics can be worse than no recognition at all
Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
The next time your young child, grandchild or niece brings home a Rorschach painting from school, try an experiment. Instead of patting her on the head and saying, “Aren’t you just the best little artist,” try talking about the specifics of the painting.
“Why did you use red here?” “What have you drawn here?” “What action is going on in this area?”
When you praise the child and hang the painting on the refrigerator, use specifics such as, “I love how your flowers are turning toward the sun; that’s very observant.” Or, “You know, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen scarier blue alien bugs.” We guarantee that your little one will light up to such specific praise and remember it for a much longer time.
Author and scholar David Cherrington gives a fun demonstration of why such specificity is so important in his book, Rearing Responsible Children.” Cherrington says of one father he observed, “He expressed appreciation to each of his three children individually in the presence of his wife. The father’s comment was a simple statement: ‘I just want you to know how much I appreciate everything you do.’ (The father supposed, like many managers, that any kind of praise would have a positive impact.)
“After he made the comment and left, his wife asked each child why the father had expressed appreciation. The 10-year-old replied, ‘I guess he must be upset because I didn’t get the dishes done like I was supposed to.’ The 13-year-old replied, ‘I don’t know. I guess he was just feeling sentimental.’ The 15-year-old said, ‘Who knows what he meant. I don’t think he understands what’s going on around here.’”
Say what you mean
In the work world, we’ve all known bosses who have fired out glibly, “Hey buddy, you’re doing a great job,” or “I appreciate all you do,” or “You sure look busy.” Unfortunately, these hollow phrases often leave employees wondering, “Does this guy have any idea what I really do around here?”
“Expressing appreciation in general, unspecified terms fails to communicate what the person did right and often appears insincere,” says Cherrington. Instead, when giving praise, describe the great behavior, why it was helpful, and say thanks. It’s that easy.
By taking a few minutes to prepare, and by using a few helpful techniques, your day-to-day recognition moments (and your formal recognition events) can do much more than simply thank employees for their contributions; they can enhance working relationships and increase feelings of loyalty and commitment.
No secret intelligence
To ensure that you’ve remembered everything, consider using the following mnemonic device: CIA – the Company (and department), the Individual and the Award. To help recall this acronym, remember that a good presentation takes a little bit of investigative work.
Company: Be prepared to talk about the company and team goals. You’ll want to reiterate why this is a great place to work (your success, your history, exciting changes, superior quality, etc.).
At FedEx, for example, managers use the recognition presentation as a time to talk about their values of people, service and profit.
Individual: Relate specifically what the individual did to earn this award or recognition and how this achievement helps fulfill your team and company goals. To get the most impact, except with very shy recipients, you’ll want to invite co-workers to talk about the person’s qualities, creativity, dedication and specific work achievements.
Award: Finally, talk about what you are presenting to your employee – whether a formal award for service or performance or a more informal award. If it’s a formal award, talk about the symbolism incorporated into the item – the gold company logo or emblem, the engraving, etc.
Never bad timing
The great thing about carrots is that they are always in season. When times are good in your company, effective presentations will give you a chance to celebrate and reflect. Unlike monetary rewards that dry up when times are tight, carrots can be used during downturns to bring you closer together and give you hope that better times lie ahead.
By making the presentations public, you not only make the person being recognized feel appreciated, but also inspire those who are in attendance. In fact, a great presentation should get people asking themselves, “What memorable or noteworthy things have I done for the company?”
Here’s an example of how it’s done right: Grocery store chain Festival Foods in Onalaska, WI, invites customers and employees to “huddle up” for recognition moments. Twice a year, the company brings in all store directors for hands-on training and meetings called “Festival College.”
After the training, leaders from the company offices go to stores for regular presentations – not only to ensure that recognition is being done right, but to get involved themselves and lead by example. As Festival Foods President Dave Skogen says, “While it’s crucial to have the best quality products and the cleanest, most attractive facility, ultimately it’s employee attitude that brings customers back.”
Adrian Gostick is director of marketing and corporate communications for the O.C. Tanner Recognition Company (www.octanner.com). Chester Elton is national director of performance sales for O.C. Tanner. This article was excerpted from their book The 24-Carrot Manager: A remarkable story of how a leader can unleash human potential (Gibbs Smith, 2002).
If you don't have time to read, consider listening to their podcasts:
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
As a more seasoned leader, I try to give my juniors all the information I can. The benefit of open communication means they come to me with their questions and concerns, and they often possess information I need to provide to senior leadership.
Marshall Goldsmith addresses this issue much more eloquently than I can, and he and Patricia Wheeler have graciously permitted reprinting an excerpt from one of his monthly newsletters here. Consider subscribing to Leading News---their monthly newsletter dedicated to helping leaders become successful.
By Marshall Goldsmith
In the age of knowledge workers, the saying that information is power is truer than ever—which makes withholding information even more extreme and irritating.
Intentionally withholding information is the opposite of adding value. We are deleting value. Yet it has the same purpose: to gain power. It’s the same old need to win, only more devious. And it appears in more forms than merely playing our cards close to our vest. You see it in people who exaggerate the virtue of keeping a secret; they use it as an excuse to leave you out of the information flow. You see it in its passive-aggressive incarnation in people who don’t return your phone calls, answer your emails, or only give partial answers.
If you don’t understand why it annoys people, reflect on how you felt about the following events:
- A meeting you weren’t told about
- A memo or e-mail you weren’t copied on
- A moment when you were the last person to learn something
The problem with not sharing information—for whatever reason—is that it rarely achieves the desired effect. You may think you’re gaining an edge and consolidating power, but you’re actually breeding mistrust. In order to have power, you need to inspire loyalty rather than fear and suspicion.
What I’m describing here is not just the willful poison-sowing refusal to share information, the way people behave when they want to divide and conquer. I’m also talking about all the unintentional or accidental ways we withhold information.
We do this when we’re too busy to get back to someone with valuable information.
We do this when we forget to include someone in our discussions or meetings.
We do this when we delegate a task to our subordinates but don’t take the time to show them exactly how we want the task done.
I was advising a friend who was having trouble with his assistant. They weren’t meshing as a team but he didn’t know why or how to fix the problem. I asked him, “What would your assistant say is your biggest flaw as a boss?”
“That I don’t communicate enough with her,” he answered, “and I leave her out of the loop.”
I observed him one day at work, and what I saw explained everything. He was already at his desk checking his e-mail when his assistant arrived. She poked her head in to say good morning, and he waved as he talked on his cell phone. When the call ended, he turned back to his computer. His assistant periodically came in to notify him of calls, which he took while continuing to scan his computer. After a few hours, I asked him if all days were like this.
“Pretty much,” he said.
My friend, indeed, was guilty of keeping his assistant in the dark, but he was not doing so maliciously or intentionally. His work life was like a haphazard fire drill. He was so distracted, so disorganized, so busy responding to calls and putting out fires that he never had time to sit down with his assistant for a daily briefing.
If he had, I suspect it would have solved their information sharing issue.
I suspect this is a big reason why so many of us withhold information. It’s not that we want to keep people in the dark. It’s simply that we’re too busy. We mean well. We have good intentions. But we fail to get around to it. As a result we become bad at sharing information, and over time it begins to look like we are withholding information.
Being bad at sharing information doesn’t mean we are willfully withholding it…but the net result is the same in the eyes of the people around us.
How do you stop withholding information?
Simple answer: Start sharing it.
That’s what my friend did. He made sharing information a higher priority in his busy day. He made time to debrief his assistant daily, and held to this commitment no matter what was going on.
If this is your problem, I advise the same solution. You will not only improve your communication, but you will prove that you care about your coworkers, demonstrating that what they think matters to you. It’s not often we get such a two-for-the-price-of-one solution to our interpersonal challenges…but making the subtle shift from withholding to sharing information is one of them.
Excerpted from What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, 2007
Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority in helping successful leaders achieve positive, measurable change in behavior: for themselves, their people and their teams. He has been named one of the top 50 leaders influencing the field of management over the last century (American Management Association), one of the five most respected executive coaches (Forbes) and among the top ten executive educators (Wall Street Journal). Marshall invites you to visit his library (MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com) for articles and resources you can use.