Are You an Information Hoarder?

Picture this:

You’re at work, in a status meeting about an upcoming event – the annual gala that honors your organization’s top donors. You report that you had an outstanding conversation with a lapsed donor who’s interested in renewing support, and is eager for an invitation to the gala. Your co-worker sitting across the table complains about being left out of the information loop with this particular donor, for some very legitimate reasons. Your face gets a little warm because you know he’s right.

Or consider this one:

Your staff person walks in with the spreadsheet of data you requested the week before, and you realize you didn’t remember to tell her you no longer need that information. She leaves your office clearly seething about the time she wasted preparing it.

Or this:

A supporter forwards you an email, asking “What’s the deal with this?” It’s a correspondence from your CEO to the constituent, and it’s the first you’ve heard of it. You sit at your desk feeling a little foolish, trying to figure out how to reply to the constituent without sounding like you had no idea what was going on.

Do any of these sound familiar? I’d put money on it that at some point you’ve either forgotten to share information with a coworker, or you were the one who didn’t get the 4-1-1. Almost always, it’s a minor oversight; nothing earth-shatteringly important, although now and again it can be a doozy.

Our knee-jerk reaction might be a mea culpa:

  • I have so much on my plate!
  • I just ran out of time…
  • Oops! We would have told you, but it was a spur of the moment discussion and decision.

On the flip side, we might go on the offensive, and say:

  • I did tell you!
  • It was in that email I sent last night…
  • Why would it matter to you?

Regardless of the reaction, it seems we just don’t remember to share information with the other guy.

Before you dismiss this as small potatoes, consider this. High performing organizations are wonderfully adept at communicating.

There are endless statistics to support this point, but rather than trot them out in this post, I’ll ask you to think about it yourself: you know intuitively your organization suffers when information isn’t flowing well.

So I’ll cut to the chase. Try these three things to stop inadvertently hoarding information and become a better communicator:

  1. Ask yourself: “Who else needs to know this?” A brief moment of reflection can avoid annoyance, confusion and duplication of effort.
  2. Stop the email madness. Email bombardment is not good communication, nor is it always the best method of information sharing. None of us can keep up with the volume of email we receive daily, so don’t flood your co-workers this way. Use email judiciously.
  3. Create a system for sharing info that fits your culture. At Clarity Group, we are spread out all over the country, so we video Skype and Skype chat frequently. We use an online document repository that everyone can access no matter where they are. We have an informal rule that after a new client meeting, we touch base by cell phone to share how the day went. These things work for us. Find what works for you.

If you employ these three tips, I guarantee you’ll have fewer communication mishaps, and to start enjoying the benefits of a good flow of information.

About Gayle Davey

I'm fascinated about the "business of conducting business": how organizations function, how they can be higher performing, how personalities drive culture... great stuff worth thinking about!
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