I get it that there are times when classified decisions are being made, sensitive problems are being solved, and moves are being contemplated where it is better for fewer people to know. In these situations, leaders need to help their teams determine what the level of classification and sensitivity is and wrestle with the question "who else needs to know?" Without that question, a culture of secrecy and distrust might begin to develop,
So how do those in leadership roles sort through the question of who else needs to know when sensitive and classified information is begin contemplated and discussed? Here are a few thoughts on this Friday morning:
- what is the risk of others knowing? If the risk is small, it might be best to err on the side of letting more know than less.
- what is the risk of others not knowing? When partners and team members are tightly connected and do their work interdependently, hearing second hand information (or information after the fact) can do great harm to the relationship that has been developed over time
- how far along is the process? Early in the decision making process, ideas can be shared that are not specific and allow for others to be in the know and/or offer information that might be helpful, without having the details be widely known
- who are the people that can help with the decision making process? Getting other viewpoints might be critical to the final decision, and letting others in on the process not only serves the decision making process, but it helps them feel a deeper loyalty to the organization
- what kind of trust has been built in the past? If the hard work has been done to build trust and loyalty with others, then it would seem natural to let them know early on what is being talked about. Not letting them know could quickly break any trust built up over time
- what message does the organization want moving forward? Having a unified message after (or during) the decision making process really calls for more people to hear it directly from the point of origin.
These are never easy decisions. It would seem logical that, given a sensitive or classified decision, less people knowing and being involved is the right thing to do. The paradoxical nature of leadership demands that those in leadership positions consistently ask the question of who else needs to know, and have the courage to expand the circle of knowledge as much as they are able. That's part of the hard work of leadership.