You have information. How do you responsibly share it?

RBLP Staff – Building and Leading Resilient Teams Series

You have information. How do you responsibly share it?

What do I know? Who else needs to know? Have I shared what I know to the ones who need to know? These are the questions savvy leaders asks themselves when they possess information that is critical to the team’s performance–and to their trust in the leader.

Sharing critical information responsibly on a need-to-know basis can be a highly nuanced task, especially for the emerging leader. News is shared with you, either from your superiors or other trusted sources. It could be good news, bad news, or news of a neutral nature that will still change the way your team moves forward. The deliverer of the news trusts that you will act on it responsibly. But what are the guidelines for sharing the information?

First, ask yourself: What do I know? Is it hard information? Does it have the ring of authenticity? Is it the full story, or does it feel like there’s more to come?

Once you have determined that you have full information on the topic, you then ask: Who else needs to know? And how much do they need to know? Your experience tells you that someone on the team besides yourself needs to have the information. But should it be fully shared with the entire team? Let the scope of the information be your guide. If this is major news that will affect the whole team, you should probably share it before it starts making the rounds as a rumor.

That’s why you ask yourself: Has the information has been properly shared and in a timely manner? You certainly don’t want the news to leak out before you can share it. Inevitably, leaked information is incomplete, and it’s almost always misinterpreted by those who receive it. Rumors create stress. If important information that involves the whole team is circulating through the rumor mill, the fear of the unknown will manifest itself in on-the-job stress, lost productivity, and loss of trust in you, the leader.

With most news that impacts the entire team, the better path forward is to share as much as you feel comfortable sharing with everyone, as soon as you are certain you have all the information they need. In the pre-pandemic, pre-Zoom meeting days, you could call everyone together in the conference room and share it simultaneously. Today, you may have to use multiple methods and channels to get the word out to everyone.

Can you do a group chat through one of your collaboration platforms? Make an effort to have everyone receive the information at the same time. But if you can’t get them all together simultaneously, make sure you deliver it to everyone within a reasonable time frame so no one is left out of the loop.

If you know something is coming but have been counseled not to divulge it yet to your team, tell them that’s the case. Telling the truth is always the best course to follow with sharing critical information. Because sharing information is a two-way street. If you share too selectively, or haphazardly, or disingenuously, you risk losing the trust of your team. The consequence could be that they won’t share information with you that could be crucial to your team’s overall well-being.