- be brave enough to ask the question...while the answer may be surprising and/or hurtful, getting the issue on the table is the first step in the process
- create trust among the team...no one will share secrets with people they do not trust (that's why they are called secrets). Spending time with the team in open dialogue is the critical first step in this process
- don't be afraid of the truth...truth can hurt, and leaders know that the hurt can then lead to healing. Most secrets, once they are brought out into the open, will not destroy an organization; the ones kept hidden might.
- create a culture of permission and forgiveness...if people are punished for sharing secrets, they will start keeping even more secrets to themselves. A culture that rewards the unmasking of secrets can become very powerful
- understand that people are complex subjects...leaders should never assume they know their people well enough that secrets would not be kept hidden. As a wise sage once told me, "people disappoint...and that's because they are people."
- practice the art of compassion...sharing the secret in the room is difficult and includes a certain amount of vulnerability. Showing compassion to those who reveal secrets and to those whom the secret affects will go a long way in solving the issue at hand
Secrets are all around us, whether we believe they are or not. Here's the good news...not every secret has to remain secret IF the culture is such that secrets can be shared as needed. And here's even the better news...once secrets are talked about they are no longer secrets, and relationships, families and organizations can begin to function well once again.