Information – give it away!

Well, perhaps it is an overstatement to say “give it away.”  There is a place for discretion; there is a place for confidentiality.   Of course.   But as a rule, information is not about power, it is not something that needs to be hoarded.   Ask the question:   what do I know that others need to know so that they can do what they need to do and do it more effectively.

Information is to be shared.   Always be on the alert to how a colleague or a department needs to be “in the know” so that they are:

  • Encouraged – because what you have in hand by way of information, and what you know, is good news;
  • Informed – so that any decisions they are making take full account of this information;
  • Be warned – so that they are not surprised by something that could blind side them in the future.

Keep your colleagues informed.   Always be attentive.

Do not over-inform.   By that I mean quite simply that – for example, in my role as a university president – I need to give the board the information they need in order to govern effectively.   I need to go into a board meeting asking:  what do they need to know so that they are informed board members, so that they know what they need to know so that their actions, their decisions, are shaped by all the information in hand that they need so that they can make the best decision possible.  I do not need to clutter their ‘in box” – literally and figuratively – with details that are not essential to their work.  Keep it thorough and essential.   But they do not even need to know everything that I do or have done or am doing.   They need to know what they need to know in order to do their work effectively.  Thus, we do not over-inform.   But that is very different from hoarding information.

There are few things more frustrating than a CFO or Treasurer for whom or from whom you have to pry out the information you need because she/he doles out details as a way to keep some leverage, perhaps, or whatever it is that keeps a person from sharing or providing the information that a colleague needs.    Few things are more short-sighted than a CFO who does not tell the president or the board what they need to know because “what they do not know cannot hurt them.”   To the contrary:   well informed actors within institutions are in the best position to make good decisions.

But, two more things.  First, do not overstate a problem.   Do not put the worst possible spin on a situation.   Do not make the situation sound worse than it is.  Say what is – information.  No melodrama.   But then also, nothing is gained by a sentimental optimism.   We need to know the facts, so that we can read the situation effectively and do what needs to be done.   Or not done.

So, be asking:  what do I know that can encourage?  What do I know that can be a “heads up” so that someone is duly alerted to something.   What do I know that might help another person – a colleague – make an effective decision?

Institutional Intelligence is the capacity to work effectively within organizations.