Oct 21 2014

As a consultant I am often given privileged information regarding a company, its operations and most often, future plans. This is often essential to the effectiveness of my advice, coaching & guidance . However, often times it is only a secret due to the internal politics of the organisation. There is no corporate/commercial reason for the secret, only the internal politics of who will be upset, who will be effected, etc…

While I understand that this is often necessary due to the culture of the organisation, the message it sends to me & those who are effected (as they will eventually find out) is neutral at best, normally it’s negative. Internal politics which drive secrecy & delayed communication to preserve “face”, maintain the peace or otherwise minimise the impact are poison. If your culture is not one of openness, transparency & effective communication, what other secrets are being held that you are unaware of?

Transparency is not just about the operation, the processes & the measures that tell us how we’re doing. It should also be about future plans, internal moves, capabilities and more. What is worse, although arguably more common, is the secrecy between consultancy & client. I remember a few years ago the consultants assigned to join a major project had to be changed at short notice. Rather than being open & honest about it as soon as the consultancy was aware, the client was not informed & one of the consultants that was already on site ended up having to field several questions about the expected consultant even though they knew that person wouldn’t be joining the team.

Besides having to lie and feeling bad about it, the deceit to the client risks a loss of trust, and therefore potential future business. It’s a bad precedent to set for sure! Transparency should be as much as possible – not just the things that are easy. An open culture is hard to build, even harder to rebuild if previously lost. Think about it the next time you have some less than desirable news to pass on, will delaying & hiding the truth really make things better? Think about the long term impact as well, not just this specific issue…

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