Share info early and often with feeling

by | Nov 18, 2013 | Blog | 0 comments

sunrise and sunset for certainty“Just the facts” is an iconic way to operate.

Back in the 1950s, the actor Jack Webb made the phrase popular with his portrayal of Sergeant Joe Friday in the classic Dragnet radio and TV series.

Sixty years later, some executives still think it’s an appropriate way to work in modern day organizations, not just for old-time fictional L.A. police detectives.

Yet, when you work with “just the facts,” you run the risk of hurting the productivity of your team and other employees.

There are two big problems with information hoarding.

If you wait until you know all the facts before you share anything of substance, you contribute to the high degree of uncertainty that already exists, making a bad situation worse.  

Then, if you only talk about facts, you miss out on a huge opportunity to make your messages memorable and inspirational.

For years, I’ve tried to convince many reticent leaders that it’s better to share partial information now rather than wait and tell a complete story later.

When people have to wait to hear for details about a merger, acquisition, or anything with a long implementation timetable, it can feel like Chinese water torture.

My track record for sharing more information sooner than later is better now, due to a combination of factors: the changing times, my increased skill in selecting clients and my improved persuasive abilities. Thanks to my experiences, I’ve accumulated many war stories I can tell, plus show my scars to prove my points.

Now I have more ammunition as to why you need to be clear with ambiguity and emotional too.

The brain research shows there is more upside than downside in sharing information. In fact, depriving people of information can cause both short- and long-term performance problems.  

Thanks to the Executive Masters in NeuroLeadership Program, and Professor Dr. Josh Davis, I’m learning:

  • To the brain, uncertainty feels like a threat to your life.  When you’re feeling uncertain, your limbic system gets aroused and you start to feel more than think. Uncertainty can trigger the brain’s alarm system to fight or flee. You feel rather than think. The limbic region in the center of the brain important for experiencing emotions, memories and motivations.
  • The brain craves certainty, and when it gets meaningful information, there is a sensation of a reward. Yes, information on its own reward.
  • When you receive information, your prefrontal cortex—the executive function of the brain—influences how you perceive it, not just the facts, but also the emotions and associated sensations. The prefrontal cortex communicates with the limbic system, which stores our memories and sensory experiences. So the richer and more expressive the information, the more likely we are to remember it. (Think in-person experience with multi-media versus a wall-of-words email.)
  • Besides feeling rewarded, you also can start to relax when you have certainty. Your pre-frontal cortex stops hoarding cognitive energy and can divert its limited attention span to other items.
  • When you and your pre-frontal cortex are in a neutral or positive state rather than feeling threatened, you can think more clearly and creatively. You’re open to new ideas, and can contribute some of your own. You’re more willing to collaborate well with others.

Now this information presented here is very basic; however, it should send the message that information hoarding can hurt, not help, knowledge workers as they go about their daily tasks.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though.

Certainty is a pipedream in today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. Yes, we can still expect the sun to rise and set, but let’s not hold our breath for much more.

However, it is possible to strive for greater clarity. When you make things as clear as possible, including explaining the implications in the immediate, short-term and long-term, you help people get a grasp on the world that’s spinning around them.

These days, that classifies as certainty in action.

What are you doing to provide information early and often with feeling?


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