Liz Reyer: In uncertain times, senior leaders can't hoard information

Liz Reyer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Business News

Q: I'm not sure what's up with my team. We have a lot of ambiguity in our company, and I'm using what I consider to be a leadership best practice of keeping the unknowns to myself so that the team won't be stressed. But I'm getting challenged by them for leaving them in the dark and making decisions without their input. How can I get them on board with my approach?

-- Geoff, 55, VP, operations

A: Consider that your "best practice" approach may actually have major flaws.

This may be hard for you to see, so look at it from a variety of perspectives.

Imagine that you're in the first few years of your career. For a generation that cares deeply about empowerment, being heard, and making a contribution, your approach will feel extremely paternalistic.

Now think about a senior employee. They will be accustomed to assessing risks and weighing options. Again, this old-school approach will feel very disempowering.


This will be even more true for women on your team, as the still (unfortunately) flourishing differential between men and women in the workplace may be very triggering. Also consider whether a person of color may have their own lens that affects their experience of your style.

Your approach may be less damaging in a steady state time, but during a time of ambiguity, it will be especially ineffective.

By staying quiet, you're creating an information void. People will create their own narratives to fill in the blank, and fear typically drives people to expect the worst. This is the worst possible outcome for you and your team.

Consider your goals: you want to minimize anxiety, strengthen engagement and maintain productivity, right?


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