When I first started managing, I tried to keep a tight rein on the information I shared with my team. I convinced myself that I was protecting them by creating a cocoon of certainty, so they wouldn’t have to worry about changes to strategy or direction.
The first time my manager shared new, surprising information with my team directly, I was irritated! It felt like bucking the natural hierarchy, where I should take information and direction from the people “above” me, and filter it to create certainty for the people on my team. If I didn’t provide information and answers for my team, what was my role?
But I realized that while providing certainty feels great for my team in the short term, it’s a disservice in the long term.
In any fast-paced industry, if our plans don’t change with new information week-to-week or year-to-year, we’re missing the boat. If my team relies on the certainty of answers from me, how will they be prepared to take on the ambiguity of these problems themselves as they grow?
Navigating through ambiguity is one of the most important leadership skills in any changing industry. For my team to be successful, they need to feel confident making great decisions based on new information.
Figuring out how to share this kind of ambiguity with people was hard. A mental shortcut I’ve found is to treat everyone around me, regardless of level or experience, with the same transparency I’d offer my peers.
This openness can be jarring at first. The first time I shared some unexpected data trends with a new colleague, they told me, “I wish you hadn’t shared that info with me. Now I’m not sure I’m spending time on the right goals.” I worried I’d upset them for no reason. Imagine how thrilled and relieved I was when that person came back a week later, thanked me for being open, and shared that they had some new ideas on how to respond to the change if it persisted.
It's helped to share context, like: “This is potentially churny info that may change, and I’m sharing it because I trust you and want to make sure you have complete info. You don’t need to take any action, but if you think we should change plans based on this, let’s talk.”
In an uncertain world, getting comfortable with ambiguity is a skill in itself. And over time, I’ve found that sharing the true ambiguity and reality of our jobs means the leaders around us grow even faster.
Thanks for reading The Hard Parts of Growth! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Ami - Im an ex-Facebooker and was a big fan of your workplace notes. So glad you are writing this newsletter. +1 to the podcast suggestion :)
This is a great one, Ami. I'm facing a lot of these types of decisions as our company and teams continue to scale. Like you once were, I'm often feeling reluctant to share data points as they come as i'm nervous to derail roadmaps or forcing a rethink on priorities. When in fact, that's the sign of a great, mature, and healthy culture. One that pivots nimbly with new data.
As an aside, what say you to a weekly podcast with your content? Maybe you pull peers, team members, your network in for discussion around these topics you're writing up? I'd promote the heck out if it internally here at Spotify!