Combat Killer Silence with the 4 Ups

Six Steps to Changing Brains
November 11, 2013
The How and Why of High Engagement
December 16, 2013

Some stock phrases meant to promise open communication are spoken so frequently, I think it’s time to officially designate them as communication clichés. Some examples:

  • My door is always open
  • Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • I promise to be open and direct with you.
  • We all have to open up and share.

Everyone understands that candid communication is essential to organizational health. No one argues that you can build High Commitment and High Performance without honesty.

4 ups squareYet in practice, full disclosure and organization-wide transparency are rare.

Managers still choose to share information selectively, thinking that some employees either don’t need to know, don’t want to know, or that they’re better off in the dark.

Seeing so much of this and the damage that follows in its wake, I created the 4 Ups to give leaders a simple and easy-to-use tool to combat the killer silence.

I call it Killer Silence, because I’ve found that promoting the benefits open communication can be less convincing than pointing out the danger of not communicating. Here’s how it works.

How Silence Kills

At first, holding back information encourages silence, followed by Questions, and finally, Rumors.

Employees take their cues from management, and so silence breeds silence. When leaders fail to Bring it Up, Talk it Up, Wrap it Up, and Follow it Up, employees follow suit. The result is an information vacuum.

In the absence of information, questions arise. What’s going on? Where are we going? What’s my role in this?

Finally the absence of answers breeds rumors as natural curiosity causes employees to fill in the blanks for themselves and each other. As you naturally expect, the answers and the rumors are seldom accurate.

What about your leaders?

Could they use the 4 Ups? Or has candid communication become one of their leadership habits? If not, what could they do to relate more openly and honestly with others? I invite you to get the answers to this question.

Learn more about the 4 Ups in my paper 4 Ups Intro. For more about Align4Profit programs designed to help leaders to communicate effectively—including recommendations for delivery, rollout strategies, and pricing—please feel free to reach me at or 972-608-0400

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Helanie Scott
Helanie Scott
Helanie (pronounced yeh-LAH-nee) Scott, CEO and founder of Align4Profit in Dallas, Texas, has driven stunning leadership and cultural transformations for an impressive list of organizations. She has mastered the ability to connect with her audiences in the boardroom, classroom, on stage, or in one-on-one coaching sessions. Helanie’s Align4Profit clients rave at the way her engaging programs freshen outdated mindsets and deliver results-oriented, aligned action.