Involve, not inform, to increase ROI

by | May 29, 2012 | Blog | 0 comments

“I’m pleased to announce….”

That phrase needs to be put out to pasture—at least in the workplace for anything other than publicizing promotions.

Why? It sends the wrong signals to today’s workforce.

“I’m pleased to announce” shows:

  • A “command and control” leadership attitude, rather than “connect and collaborate.”
  • The lack of ongoing conversations about key business topics, which harks back to the days of  “tell and sell” when leaders believed they need to communicate only after they had decided on every single detail of a new initiative.
  • Sugarcoating potentially bad news, or news that will have an adverse impact on some.

Leaders can’t have it both ways. In other words, you can’t be protective and secretive with information if you are striving for an involved, empowered and engaged workforce.

Employees—especially knowledge workers—want to know what’s going on. And they’d prefer a two-way conversation rather than one-way communication. To honor their wishes, practice “inquire, involve and inform” with employees rather than treat them like mushrooms—kept in the dark and fed nothing.

Mushrooms enhance risotto, not the workplace. The more secret you are about the business, the fewer on-the-job, in-the-moment opportunities you have to build business literacy with employees. Better business literacy leads to better on-the-job decisions and interactions with customers.

Also, by adopting a more collaborative mindset of “share and prepare to act together,” you’ll achieve better leverage, which is one of the key goals of leadership. And greater employee participation improves your ROI—return on involvement.

There’s another downside to being protective and secretive. You can hurt your credibility if employees perceive you are acting inconsistently. For example, if you’ve been transparent about operations, but then suddenly clam up, you can lose respect and trust.

(In the interest of full disclosure, one of my clients experienced backlash with a recent “I’m pleased to announce” message, which inspired me to write this post. Employees were critical about a leader going dark and then saying “I’m pleased to announce” an initiative that will adversely affect some employees’ jobs. We’re now working on repairing relations.)

Granted, some situations require leader discretion, especially mergers and acquisitions that are highly regulated.

Nonetheless, leaders should still be articulating the business strategy, including whether growth will be organic or through targeted acquisitions. Or, if certain business units no longer fit the current strategy, leaders should be explaining that the company is embarking on a plan to divest itself of specific businesses.

Employees will know sooner than later anyway, considering that many are stockholders. Plus, business information is easily available online through the BYOD (bring your own device, a la smart phone) that many employees now bring to work.

Leading in today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world demands that leaders as well as employees adopt new behaviors and update obsolete language. Those actions will help us seek out the bright spots to make a better future.

We’ll make a better future by acting together, not informing each other—I’m pleased to announce.

If you need help in hunting down obsolete language and leading better in a VUCA world, please contact me.

What’s your take?


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