3 Secrets To Sharing Secrets

3 Secrets To Sharing Secrets

Don’t keep secrets. Keeping secrets creates short-term advantages and long-term costs. You gain the edge, but lose the relationship. The world could use less secrets and more sharing. I wish you would share more.

Annoying Secret #1: Bad News

I was happy when he brought me bad news. His eyes matched his words,”I’m really worried.” I exhaled a huge sigh of relief. I was worried too, but this guy worries with data. He had patterns, insights, and possible scenarios. He could have waited, or tried a thing or two first. He wants to look good. But he knows I want to know what he knows. The sooner I know the real deal, the faster we can solve it.

You want your boss to know you’ve got it covered. But your boss wants to help. Share your concern out of respect not need. Bring potential solutions. Share your internal debate. Keep the lead, but give others a chance to collaborate on solutions.

Annoying Secret #2: Best Practices

It was the day before the big review with the senior team. We each had a turn to share our talk tracks. The leader ahead in an important key metric mentioned 3 or 4 best practices for the first time. We’d ALL been struggling toward this same goal, and he had answers.

Keeping best practices secret destroys trust. Secret keepers lose respect. No one wants to promote the secret keeper. Share your knowledge. Offer help. Open your heart and hands to the greater good.

Annoying Secret #3: How You Really Feel

“We’ve all been talking about it; you’re acting different.” His words were a kick in my gut. I knew it was true. The pressure was mounting and I was trying to protect the team. Instead of serving as shield, my stress emerged as unexplained intensity. We talked. We explored feelings and reasons on both sides. It helped. We carved a path forward.

Keeping your feelings secret dehumanizes the relationship. Keeping how you really feel a secret to protect your team may even make you feel like a martyr. Don’t whine, but share feelings with intention. Know the reason for your sharing. Start slowly. Check in. Initiate a balanced discussion (what feels good? what feels bad?) Be open to what you hear on the other end.

Your turn: What secrets would be better off not kept?
Filed Under:   Authenticity & Transparency
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

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What People Are Saying

Bob   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

All too often, I see leaders holding back performance feedback for their individual team members. They don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, so they give broad, but useless feedback. At the same time, they will sometimes tone down feedback to rockstars because they don’t want them to ask for more money. Come on already, we are all big boys and girls. How about the truth already?

Communication and trust; they aren’t just buzzwords.

Thanks for getting me all stirred up this morning Karin! ;)

Karin   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

Bob, Oh, those are great examples. I see that often too. I’m stirred up with you!

Alli Polin   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

Transitions… When leaders know that they’re moving on, they’re often not doing a service to the team by telling them days before (or less) Build time for transition, celebration of relationships, successes and knowledge transfer. Don’t just leave with a wave and a wink.

letsgrowleaders   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

Alli, That’s such a good one too. I’ve seen that many times as well.

Dave Bratcher   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

Great insight into what it takes for a team to win. Another point worth adding when talking about secrets is the damage gossip can do to a team. These are different types of secrets, and when they are shared it only does harm. We should not keep information from our team that will help them get better, but we should be careful in freely sharing secrets which hurt those working alongside us daily.

letsgrowleaders   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

Dave, Exactly.

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

People normally are first-cost minded. Bad news, for example, is a cost to start with. Costs are more propelling than future profits. So, what you say Karin makes lot of sense. It is shifting minds to better attitudes that is needed. Great post, as usual

letsgrowleaders   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

Ali, what a beautiful way to look at it. Thanks, as always for your insights.

LaRae Quy   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

Loved this post, Karin! What an important topic, and one that is never talked about…when to keep secrets and when not to. You’ve hit it on the head…secrets divide and create communication barriers. The unspoken can be a huge wall on many levels. I personally never trusted team members who held info too tightly to their chest; they were hoarding stuff and refusing to share.

letsgrowleaders   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

LaRae, Thanks so much. “Secrets divide and create communication barriers…” totally agree. Speaking into the unspoken can be so empowering.

Matt McWilliams   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

As a general rule, about 99.9% of them.

Open leadership = effective leadership.

letsgrowleaders   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

Matt, Let it be so,

Steve Broe   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

Karin, I like the social intelligence you reveal when you offer this suggestion, “Share your internal debate. Keep the lead, but give others a chance to collaborate on solutions.” It is true, there is often an internal debate when making decisions. When we share the mental exploration with others, we give credit to them for their value, and we expand our opportunity to make a bigger impact. Well done!

letsgrowleaders   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

Steve, Thanks so much. It’s all about how do we impact more… thanks for raising that up.

Jon Mertz   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply


Such important points. When these three secrets are revealed, we become transparent leaders. It may be tough to reveal them at times. If we do it with trust, honesty, and respect, then it will all work out better than hiding our feedback, feelings, or thoughts.


letsgrowleaders   |   15 October 2013   |   Reply

Jon, Agreed. It can be tough, but you raise an important point, “do it with trust, honesty, and respect.” Thanks for adding that.

David Hain   |   15 October 2013   |   Reply

Nice call to action Karin!

Ironically we often keep secrets because we want to protect people, failing to realise that they are adults too…

2 double whammy negatives – firstly they lose trust in us, and secondly they now have an additional worry because their mind goes to why we are holding back.

The Germans have a great expression “Put the fish on the table (because we can all smell it anyway”. Not doing so in my experience always complicates matters further and almost never for the better.

letsgrowleaders   |   15 October 2013   |   Reply

David, That sounds just like something my German Father in law would have said. I’ll have to check that one out with my husband to see if that was a favorite ;-) Great to see you here. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

Terri Klass   |   15 October 2013   |   Reply

Secrets are the worst for leaders who want to connect with their team in a meaningful way. When information is withheld, rumors circulate and people begin to feel uneasy. I have seen this happen in many organizations and never quite understood why the flow of information was thwarted.
Being open and transparent is the only way to create a culture of trust.

Thanks Karin for a wonderful post!

letsgrowleaders   |   16 October 2013   |   Reply

Terri, Thanks so much. Love your add about rumors….I’ve seen that far too often.

Lolly Daskal   |   15 October 2013   |   Reply

there are secrets to keep and secrets to tell and once we know which we want to share, how we share them, with whom we share them. matters. secrets make us vulnerable and can alienate us from those who listen if we tell the too much- or we feel the listener does not respond the way we wish.

Having the experience of having one’s heart open to full range -takes courage and so I am a firm believer- in when telling secrets it must have the right timing, right space, right person.


letsgrowleaders   |   16 October 2013   |   Reply

Lolly, So beautifully put. Knowing the difference between the secrets to keep and the secrets to tell. Also fully agree, “right timing, right place, right person.” Namaste.