Spill the Truth: Can you keep a secret?

Spill the Truth: Can you keep a secret?

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In my work with CEOs, one of the most common issues that surfaces is confidentiality. Usually leaders are struggling with how to keep their reports quiet about a potential acquisition or organizational change. But often times it’s the leaders who find themselves in the situation where they’ve divulged information prematurely or said the wrong thing to the wrong person.

Secrets. It’s a tricky topic. Especially given how often I encourage you to Spill the Truth. But there are times in business when we simply can’t be as transparent as we’d like to be. And, unfortunately, the default setting I’ve seen over the years for secret keeping is to instill a sense of fear in others.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with telling people what’s at risk if secrecy is compromised, threatening colleagues and employees is ineffective.

A good leader knows that the best way to ensure confidentiality is to:

  • Be a role model. Use discretion and speak favorably when talking about others. Reveal only what is necessary to make business decisions.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Recognize individuals who can keep a lid on things. It works.
  • Avoid dwelling on what can’t be shared. Focus on conveying the benefits of keeping things close for the benefit of the company, employees and customers.
  • Instill a sense of trust in your workplace culture. Show people by how you act and speak to them that you believe they can—and will—use discretion.

Before you act . . .
To the best of your ability, establish a core group of confidants who have proven themselves to be trustworthy. These individuals understand that keeping secrets is sometimes necessary—but never easy. Turn to them for support.

Comments or suggestions?
I’d love to know what you thought of this week’s Spill the Truth and to hear about communication-related topics you’d like me to address in upcoming editions. Drop me a note below.

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