In a world in which your employees expect you to communicate openly with them about your company’s direction, the image of the tight-lipped CEO is badly out of date, right? Not at all, writes business coach Karen Otazo in The Truth About Being a Leader…and Nothing but the Truth.
She says it’s still the case that the more powerful your position within a company the more lonely it is. And it’s a good thing, too. If you’re the top dog at your firm, you can’t afford to be too open with anyone inside or close to your organization. Otazo’s advice includes:
1. There’s no such thing as a casual conversation: As the leader, everything you say, however inconsequential, has more weight to others’ ears than if it were said by someone in a lesser position. The things you say tend to get repeated and reverberate around your company.
2. Be especially wary of sharing your concerns about employees: An unguarded comment about one of your staff can easily stray onto the organizational grapevine, leaving you looking unprofessional, or damaging relationships if word gets too far.
3. You need to find a few “thinking partners” who you can trust: If you share with people at your firm ideas or strategies that you haven’t thought through yet, you risk being misquoted or misconstrued. Many people associate unformed ideas with uninformed thinking and a lack of confidence — the last things you want others to think about you as a leader.
4. Confide only in outsiders who are your peers: Professional networks are the best place to find someone you can be frank with. Look for someone with at least as much experience and knowledge as you have. The more accomplished they are, the more likely they can help you make the right decisions — especially if they are or have been in a similar role. Coaches or consultants can also be good bets. But spouses or partners are not. Supportive as they may be, they don’t always understand organizational dynamics or the need for confidentiality.
5. Never forget that guarding your tongue is part of the price of leadership: Even finding a good thinking partner is not a licence to share absolutely anything. Although everyone needs to talk about what they’re going through, wise leaders learn to pick their confidants carefully and, when in doubt, keep quiet.