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When Do Leaders Cross From Honest Transparency to T-M-I?

Finding appropriate transparency makes all the difference in the world.

I’ve been on both sides of the pendulum.

Early in my leadership, I was afraid to let anyone see my weaknesses. I was afraid to say “I don’t know.” I was hesitant to share my struggles. I thought I had to have it all together.

I got away from that after a few years and became more open, but then I went through burnout and in one sobering moment discovered the other end of the spectrum.

About a year after I came back from burnout (here’s a post on the 12 keys I discovered to coming back from burnout), I was speaking to a group of church leaders in Philadelphia. I talked quite openly about my struggle with burnout.

After, the lead pastor of the church came up to me and said, “Wow … that was tough. Are you sure you don’t need more counseling?”

The 3 mistakes I made in oversharing.

I’m sure in that moment, I had overshared.

Looking back on it, I realized I made three mistakes in that talk.

1. I hadn’t finished processing what I was going through.

2. My talk about that subject was more about me than it was about the audience.

3. I didn’t have any clear strategies to help any listeners who might have been going through the same thing.

I wish I had a better metaphor for that kind of talk, but here’s how I think of it (because I’ve sat through too many and given one or two myself): It’s like the speaker just threw up a little (or a lot) on the audience.

And nobody leaves feeling better for it. Except maybe the speaker or writer.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ve since given talks about my burnout and recovery to thousands of leaders in different venues and even different continents, and people have thanked me for it again and again.

Some of the most heartfelt and meaningful thank you notes I’ve received have been from people who have heard me talk about my recovery from burnout.

What’s the difference?

I shared, but I stopped oversharing. 

In fact, over the last few years, I’ve tried to develop some working guidelines for appropriate transparency.

3 keys to appropriate tranparency.