We discussed earlier the negative effect management intimidation has on both organizational opportunity and employee creativity. Intimidation also has a seriously negative effect on information flow. If people are scared of you, they do not want to bring you bad news. Moreover, they will filter or distort the truth if they fear your reaction to it. So if you manage by
, you either get bad information or no information. As Doug Bain of Boeing puts it, "If somebody is going to get screamed at, that somebody is less likely to bring you bad news that you need to know.... Most managers deal with information flow. And personality plays a big role in whether information is getting to them and
within the organization."
Several invincible executives I interviewed said that accurate information flow is perhaps the most essential factor in long-
success. According to Bill Marriott, "As soon as people stop talking to you, you are dead." Similarly, Juanita Hinshaw, CFO of Graybar Electric, says that developing faithful reporting channels is the key to professional advancement. You have to be reasonable in your expectations, however. Her rule is: do not surprise me three times. "I tell people what I need and want and let them do it. I will leave you alone to do your job as long as you keep me posted, keep me informed. Let me know if there are problems or other issues that I need to deal with.... I don't want
. And one of the rules I am really hard on is that you do not surprise me three times," according to Hinshaw. One surprise she can understand; twice is a problem, but she is a
person; three times and you are out of here. Hinshaw simply will not work with someone who repeatedly fails to get her accurate information in a
Admiral Prueher noted that the higher up you get in an organization, the more prone your
are to shading the facts of a situation to make them more palatable to you. "When you get to be a flag officer [an Admiral]," according to Admiral Prueher, "you never get another bad meal and you never get the truth," he told me. Consequently, "you always have to look
at what people are telling you, second-guess their motives, and find people whom you can rely upon."
Therefore, while invincible executives do not
, they do spend a lot of time gathering information. In fact, they spend more time getting information than giving direction. To gather information effectively, they utilize three strategies: (1) they cultivate the personal management qualities that facilitate the flow of information to them; (2) they put people around them who are
for accurate information; and (3) they put organizational structures in place that permit the free flow of information.