Heard a business leader end a a bi-weeklly charge to the troops with “I have some important news that’s related to our strategy. But I’m not ready to tell you yet, so until we talk again, enjoy your weekend and have a productive two weeks.” High marks for literary foreshadowing; extremely low marks for business leadership.People want to hear what affects them. Everyone intuitively knows that there are secrets that must be kept, directions that can’t be let out of the bag until certain times, and not everyone needs to know everything. But that doesn’t mean we should go around and tell people what we can’t tell them. The old joke, “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you” is a joke — when used in the real world it smells of pompousness and reinforces the caste system we all know about but enjoy ignoring as much as we can. Leadership is about giving people the information and motivation they need to do a job — empowerment means we give people power. Dangling a carrot (our leader may well have good news, but even kids don’t like to be tickled with the promise of something good — give me the good!) or foreshadowing an impending storm neither motivates or gives power. It holds people hostage to an information void, and it’s rarely appreciated or profitable.
If you can’t say, don’t bring it up. If you bring it up, have something to say.