One of the things I would say is important as a leader is to be open and honest with your team. The honesty bit probably isn't too controversial - after all, most leaders don't set out to be dishonest, manipulative or deceitful ( with some notable exceptions ).

But what about the openness? What exactly does that mean?

The problem with being open is - how far does it go? Do I really mean that you should tell your team everything? Are there any things which it would be legitimate to keep from them?

Well, yes, there are things which you should be prepared to keep to yourself.

If you're in a position of some authority or responsibility, it's likely there'll be times when you're involved in discussions which are appropriate for your level but where it's expected that the information won't be passed on to everyone else.

For example, I've been involved in management meetings in the past where we were discussing possible promotions, redundancies, reorganisations, mergers and so on. In some cases we were specifically asked to keep the information confidential, other times there was just an assumption that we wouldn't go back to the office and tell everyone what we'd just been discussing.

This can be difficult, especially if your team know that something's going on and they're desperate to find out more.

I know I've been in that position as well, knowing that people above me were discussing major changes and feeling worried about how they would affect me and my future.

I also know from experience that being kept in the dark about what's happening increases your anxiety during periods of change. In fact, one problem with the way many organisations manage change is the way leaders start to clam up and hide from view, leaving people to rely on guesswork and rumour to fill the gap left by the lack of accurate information.

So where do you draw the line? When do you stop being open and how do you deal with situations where people ask you about something you can't discuss with them?

Let's go back to why, as a general rule, you should be open in the first place:

• because you should treat people with respect and not be underhand or manipulative
• because it will increase their level of trust in you and their commitment to you as a leader
• because a lack of information can lead to gossip and rumour, which can be inaccurate and damaging to morale and motivation
• because better decisions can be made when people are in possession of all relevant facts and can see the big picture
• because it can encourage a sense of responsibility and accountability in others when they're made aware of what's happening

So why might there be times when you go against this general rule and keep things to yourself?

• when it would be unfair to tell one person and not tell everyone else
• when you've been specifically asked to keep something confidential and not to do so would break the trust of the person who asked you
• when things are unclear and letting out inaccurate or impartial information might be misleading
• when the information might be commerically sensitive, e.g. affecting the share price of a company, and it's not your place to reveal it
• when letting out information might increase worries and anxieties amongst your team without actually helping them in any way
So it's a balancing act. You have to decide whether it's up to you to pass on information and whether the benefits ( from the first list above ) justify it.

Even then, you have to think about how you do it. For example, it wouldn't be fair to tell one member of your team that there may be redundancies coming up without telling everyone else as well. You shouldn't be seen to have favourites.

And there may be times when you have to say something like, " I can't tell you exactly what's being discussed at the moment because I've been asked not to, also things are at an early stage and anything I said now would probably be misleading. But, as soon as things become clear, I'll make sure you and the rest of the team know what's happening at the earliest possible time. "

This sort of answer is better than just saying, " I can't tell you. " It shows concern for the person asking but doesn't set them apart from the rest of the team. It's honest and is as open as you can be in the circumstances.

Author's Bio: 

Alan Matthews is a trainer, coach and speaker who helps people to be successful managers and leaders - people who can bring out the best in themselves and those around them. For more articles and a free copy of The Book Of 100 Management Tips, visit