It’s not easy being the boss

Q. As a CEO, I support “open book” policies when it comes to our financials, but I’ve been questioning this practice lately, as I find employees don’t really understand what they’re looking at and jump to conclusions. Do you have any advice on how I can be open, but perhaps not share as much information?A. Information is power, but if it’s misunderstood, it can be more frightening than empowering. An open book policy is an incredibly well-intended idea, but too much information without the tools to understand and interpret the information is less of a gift than you might think.Trust me, I actually love the desire for transparency, but with that comes an obligation to teach and explain and be available to help employees understand what the financial information really means. I also believe that too much information is just that – too much information – and I think you will discover that the desire to know will fluctuate quite a bit throughout the organization. I would suggest being true to the intent, but begin by providing different levels of information to different levels of staff based on their abilities to understand.At the same time, begin to develop internal training opportunities so that those who should know and those that might like to know can learn the skills they need to understand the financial information you’re sharing.Your desire to share information is commendable and a workforce that understands (and trusts) the fiscal realities is in a much better position to enhance the bottom line.Start slow – make training a priority and watch your workforce grow in sophistication and appreciation for a management team that treats their employees with the respect they deserve. Q. What do you do about employees who need a lot of hand-holding to get anything accomplished? They do good work, but I simply don’t have the time to provide constant direction.A. This kind of employee problem is a good one to have. Given that quality is not an issue, the need for a lot of “hand-holding” is quite likely a sign of lack of confidence and a call for more “one-on-one” mentoring.”Begin with Yes” starts with the positive premise – the good work accomplished – and seeks step-by-step actions that will help the employee become more confident and more independent. Would you be comfortable having an unemotional, even casual conversation with the employee that simply lays out the realities? Obviously start by acknowledging the good work and demonstrating a sincere appreciation for specific jobs that were done well.Then point out that you think the person is ready to work more independently and you want to help them feel more comfortable moving through projects with less contact with you. Then solicit (and actually listen) to their reactions and suggestions around moving in that direction. You will be co-creating a plan to increase confidence and independence, and it’s quite possible that the employee will go home feeling respected and empowered.This plan could become part of a performance-based goal anchored in your faith in your employee and a willingness to participate in the plan to move forward. Don’t expect an instant turnaround, but do expect to note and praise progress as it’s made. As a final thought – you may want to do a little soul-searching to discover if you have unintentionally created a work environment where people are afraid to take reasonable risks and where mistakes are treated as problems rather than learning opportunities.If you can be as honest with yourself as you are with your employee, you may discover that you require some personal work, too. In any event, an employee doing good work is a valuable asset and almost always worth the investment in time and energy to get them to the next level.Paul Boynton, president and chief executive of Moore Center Services, Manchester, is also a personal coach, corporate consultant, motivational speaker, host of the television show, “Begin with Yes” and author of the book by the same name. He can be reached at