Self-disclosure can be very scary

Well, I did it. I made the first item of the agenda “self-disclosure.” (My Leadership in Progress post talked about how self-disclosure was a tip from the Bankable Leadership program.) I have to admit I was a bit nervous about sharing things about me, and I wondered what the team would think of that agenda item number one. Would they think it was a waste of time? Would they wonder what the heck I was doing, and question why we are veering from the same old agenda that we’ve always done for these meetings?

It took me a while to decide what I wanted to self-disclose to my team. I did a brain-dump of my style and my expectations, and I must have come up with 9 or 10 items. Brain-dumping turned out to be a great exercise. Seeing them on paper (on screen, anyway) made it a bit easier to pick and choose what I thought the team really needed to know about me. Plus, I knew I couldn’t take up the whole meeting with my self-disclosure—we had a lot of things to get through. Okay, I’ll just say it . . . I didn’t want to waste our time with my self-disclosure. Yes, I thought I would be wasting everyone’s time if I self-disclosed every one of my brain-dump items. But, I understand what Bankable Leadership preaches. If your team understands your motives and your thought processes and your history, they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. So I did something I thought was kind of clever.

For that first agenda item, I only self-disclosed four of my leadership styles/expectations. For the remaining items I wanted to share, I printed them out (along with the four self-disclosures I shared at the meeting), put them in sealed envelopes, one for each team member, and gave them out at the end of the meeting. Yes, I purposely waited until the end of the meeting, so they wouldn’t be tempted to open the envelope during the meeting. (You know, like people often do with their smartphones, taking a peek at them during meetings, no matter what’s being discussed or who is doing the talking). So, they learn a bit more about me (more of my self-disclosures), at their own convenience. (Is that a Miranda move? Probably. But, we really did have a lot to get through. Anyway, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

Here’s what I self-disclosed at the meeting (brief summary):

  • No surprises. Don’t wait until the deadline to let me know that something is preventing you from meeting the deadline. I want to know soonest.
  • Too many cooks in the kitchen. I will have conversations only with those that are directly responsible for the topic. I will not include the entire board in those conversations.
  • Things will be shared with our clients. Doing so helps hold us accountable.
  • I get ideas at all times of the day, so you’ll likely get an e-mail from me—at any time of the day. I don’t expect you to drop what you’re doing to respond to my midnight messages.

And this is what I shared, after the fact, on paper:

  • I hold myself accountable, and I expect team members to do the same.
  • Do it right the first time (Total Quality Management training made a big impact on me).
  • I love learning about my communication/learning styles, so don’t be surprised if I ask you to take one of those quizzes/surveys as well. It will help if we all know each other’s style.

After the meeting, I sent a SurveyMonkey to everyone, asking for their feedback on my self-disclosing. I made it a quick one—only three questions.

And, the survey says:




Some respondents commented:

  • I like to know how other people work, and what their expectations are. It helps me to know how to respond.
  • I’d already figured [you] out for the most part. Nice to hear confirmation/recognition that you know your own traits though.
  • [You] are an upfront and forthright person by nature, so most of the disclosed items are pretty evident when interacting with [you]. I didn’t realize that [your] desire to improve tasks and the overall process was the result of TQM training.
  • In all fairness, I’ve known you for a long time, so no surprises. I liked it, though. I thought it was a good way to say what the board’s expectations of you should be and what your expectation of the BOD are.

So. That was my first, real self-disclosure attempt. Would I do it again? Sure, with a new team (it’s no longer a scary thing to me). Would I recommend it to other team leaders? Absolutely, and I would also suggest that they consider asking their team in advance if they think self-disclosure would be helpful.

Hey, before you go, will you take a second or two to take this poll, please? I’m interested in what you think about self-disclosure.