There is a scene in the classic movie The Goonies where one of the young Goonies – “Chunk” as he is endearingly nicknamed by his Goony cohorts – is accosted by the criminal Fratelli family. Confronted with the consequence of bodily harm by blender, Chunk is ordered by the Fratellis to tell them where the rest of his Goony friends are as they try to find One-eyed Willie’s treasure. “Tell me everything!” Not fully understanding the scope of the question and in a panic, Chunk proceeds to tell them every bad thing he has done since the 2nd grade, including using fake vomit and making hurling sounds causing a cascade of children to vomit all over the summer camp cafeteria.
So what do Chunk, The Fratellis, The Goonies and a story about vomit have to do with anything in the corporate world? Call it a stretch, but I’ve often asked myself the question: “what if we as leaders told our people everything?” And did it not because we feared meeting some sort of blender atrocity at the hands of the Fratellis but because we had nothing to hide? I’m not necessarily suggesting telling your teams about the time you ran a paper writing business in college to fund your trip to Mardi Gras. Or the time when you moronically and immaturely kept a scathing running journal about the company you worked for making fun of all of the top executives (which was later discovered leading to many not so fun-filled behind closed doors discussions with these same senior executives about the direction of your career). Maybe that stuff falls into the category of Chunk’s fake vomit and might be better left unsaid. But what if we let our people know who we were as people – including those things that weren’t necessarily our proudest moments? And what if we told our people what was going well in our company and what wasn’t – without spin and with authenticity just because we wanted them to know and trusted that they could handle it? Would we be better off? Would we getter better team results?
I’m not sure of the answer, but I do know that these days we all hear a lot about “transparency” in the corporate world. There aren’t many days during the work week where I don’t hear someone say it: “I’m going to be totally transparent with you right now.” I certainly appreciate that. Of course, my somewhat cynical alter ego (who I try to keep locked up inside the confines of my head with only an “inside voice”) wonders whether because you didn’t preface the transparency thing when we talked about something else recently that I should believe that you weren’t telling me everything at that point and that we were actually engaged in some sort of cat and mouse game of corporate subterfuge. Maybe the real point here is that I need therapy.
But to the real point here, what if we just made things simpler, threw the expression “let me be transparent” out the window, and just actually used communication transparency to tell people what’s going on all the time – even the stuff that’s not so pretty? And let our teams know we had shortcomings and weren’t leadership automatons? Of course, sometimes we just can’t tell people everything for a variety of reasons. But I often wonder just how many of those cases truly exist and how many are cases where the world wouldn’t cease to exist as we know it if we did tell them. In my previous leadership roles, I’ve often told the teams I led almost everything – maybe too much – but found that most of them seemed to respect me for it and appreciate the information, even if they didn’t like what I was telling them.
Maybe I was channeling my inner-Chunk. It’s no surprise he was many peoples’ favorite Goony.