Monday, May 19, 2014

The Case for Sharing Information

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Two weeks ago, in Leading By Example, I wrote about my latest experiment in trying to make the values and behaviors described in my association's values statement a more active part of the day-to-day interactions of me and my staff.

Having asked everyone to make a commitment to more mindfully manifest a chosen behavior in the office--and having communicated that performance evaluations would, in part, be based on their willingness and ability to do so--I decided to lead by example and do what I had asked everyone else to do.

The behavior I chose is:

We share information openly and proactively, demonstrating an understanding that our actions impact others.

It is part of our overall value of Teamwork, which is focused on helping us work better together to deliver exceptional service to our members.

I chose this behavior very intentionally. I wanted to chose one that I thought I actually needed to improve upon. I've written before about how our values statement is intended to be aspirational in nature. In other words, it is not a description of the values we currently hold, but the ones we believe we need to hold if we are going to be successful in our environment. With that as a frame, I thought it would be it easy for people to admit the areas they need to work on, but that hasn't always been the case. So, I hoped that having the boss publicly admit that there's something he needs to improve upon would send a clear signal that such vulnerability was okay.

And sharing information openly and proactively is definitely something I could improve upon. Fact is, I don't share enough information with the team--especially about the evolving strategy of the organization. We're a small organization, and people's plates are full--mine no less so. I get pulled in a lot of different directions by a lot of different stakeholders with competing priorities. Keeping things aligned in the one direction that best helps the organization fulfill its mission is perhaps the most challenging part of my job. And previously, the thought of showing others how organic rather than strategic that process can be has been too big of a barrier to overcome.

But upon reflection, I realized that the information I was keeping locked up in the corner office had more value out in the trenches. It was our full plates that was actually creating a priority for tighter organizational alignment. Because we were so busy, we had to find ways to act in a unified fashion that didn't depend on the command and control expectations of old. When the only thing the boss shares is the polished communications of determined strategy, he creates a situation in which every environmental deviation from what was predicted results in a trip to his office and a request for new marching orders.

I thought sharing more, including the sometimes messy inner workings of strategy building, would provide everyone in the organization with a deeper understanding of not just what had been decided, but why it was decided, and what some of the reasonable alternatives might have been. That would put everyone on firmer footing when it came to applying our strategy to inevitable new situations that would continue to confront us and confound what it is we thought we wanted to achieve.

Stay tuned. In a future post, I'll write more about this behavior and some of the things I'm doing to better manifest it in the office.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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