With these normalized expectations in mind, strategically incorporate the following approaches and behaviors to reinforce a transparent culture.
Invest in Relationships
For transparency to be established, you first must focus on relationships across the organization.
Transparency is only effective if it is based on well-established relationships. These require time and intention.
Regularly scheduled leadership and department meetings are a must. On top of that, all teams, especially those in leadership, need to carve out time for deep dives.
Discuss the company’s vision. Dissect and personalize the mission. Review established objectives and cover everyone’s responsibility in accomplishing them. If individual departments don’t have a vision, mission or goals of their own, take the time to involve the entire team in creating those.
People also recognize transparency when it includes some vulnerability. Investing in the professional purposes of the relationships is vital. Leaders must balance it with social interactions as well. Not attending office holiday parties, happy hours or other culture-centric events creates distance and distrust. Attending social gatherings allows certain “working hours walls” to come down and provides personal transparency.
The goal of all this is not to become best friends with everyone you work with (although if that is the result, great). The purpose of investing in relationships is to ensure everyone is on the same page. There’s clarity about the direction of the organization. Team members are certain of their roles in reaching that destination.
The road to successful transparency is paved with two-way communication. Much like the 5th Habit of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood®, leaders must listen to those on their team and truly understand their perspective before earning a place to be understood themselves.
One way key approach to transparency is to involve everyone in all aspects of the business.
Consider these effective ways:
- Incorporate them in decision-making processes, especially for those whose success relies greatly on everyone’s buy-in. Remember that involving everyone means everyone. Ensure diversity as you incorporate, invite and include team members. Broader representation in decision making encourages a more comprehensive adoption of strategies and initiatives.
- Invite them to serve on committees – even those that may have no direct relationship to their duties such as those focused on sustainability, social responsibility or culture enhancement.
- Include them in company-defining moments and initiatives. Welcome team members to participate in the creation of the mission statement or core values (or the periodic process of revisiting them). Have them drive programs that give back to the community.
- Ask what they think. Frequently. Survey your team on a regular basis. Quarterly, bi-annually or annually, release a formal, comprehensive survey to collect their questions, evaluations and suggestions about how things are going. Also, create platforms to gather their thoughts more immediately. Provide easily accessible ways. Leverage online forms via the intranet, an email address or a direct contact through the internal communications chat platform.
- Get creative. In large townhalls, continue the two-way communication by using tools such as Poll Everywhere and Mentimeter. These platforms make presentations interactive and engaging while immediately collecting important feedback and questions from attendees.
- Most importantly, thank them. By asking a question or submitting a suggestion, they also practice transparency and vulnerability. Recognizing and honoring their effort is a reward in itself. Best of all, it encourages their future engagement.
Once you’ve incorporated these inclusion strategies, you’ll wonder how you survived before them.
Cover All Bases
Everyone has a different learning style. Some are visual learners; others are more audible. Their learning style links also to their preferred form of communication. That is why it is important they ways you practice transparency and share information cover all the bases.
Leverage all available avenues to distribute your message. We have relied on email as a main form of communication for quite some time. Now, we have more effective and immediate methods of transparent communication available. Slack and Yammer offer platforms for instantly releasing announcements, sharing documents and holding team conversations. Software systems like Simpplr provide intranet solutions with social media and chat integration options. If not available in-house, multiple resources exist like AppyPie can develop an application for your business. These can push immediate and important notifications to your team members.
The key is consistency. Communicate, communicate, communicate, and when you’re done communicating, communicate some more. The more regularly you share information with your team members, the more knowledgeable they will feel about the organization. This knowledge better connects team members to the company they support and the roles that they play.
Inspired by the classic Disney movie, every quarter, have a Freaky Friday where a team member from one department flips roles with a team member from a different area. Each can shadow a team leader from the hosting department and learn the inner workings of a different department.
Spending time in a different department provides great insight into other teams and can answer lingering “whys.”
- …is this form always required?
- …do we have to wait until this date for this to happen?
- …are we not allowed to do it this?
On the flip side, a new perspective might reveal fresh ideas yet to be discovered. At the end of the day, allow the visiting team member to offer suggestions on potential improvements. Facilitating open dialogues between departments in this manner can produce exciting results.
As an added bonus, team members form and strengthen new cross-functional relationships. These help the success of future projects and streamline systems.
Ask Me Anything
Many successful companies that embody a transparent culture promote “Ask Me Anything” days. Scheduled perhaps weekly or monthly, leaders rotate to make themselves available to answer questions submitted from anyone throughout the organization.
In preparation, collect questions ahead of time. Team members can submit these via email, the intranet, online surveys and the company’s internal communications tool like Slack or Yammer. The subject matter expert answers them through the same platforms. Afterwards, posting the answers to the intranet creates an archive for future reference.
Grant Access & Share Results
Speaking of archives, limit the limits placed on information.
Provide all team members access to company information such as annual reports, quarterly financials and briefings from key committee and leadership meetings. Some companies such as Buffer go as far as sharing everyone’s salary information.
Consider the organization’s long-term goals when deciding what information to share. Will the shared information move the company closer towards accomplishing objectives? Would the shared information distract from the overall purpose and mission? Or is there value and a more collaborative culture by having a broader common knowledge? In answering these questions, it’s important to remember: People can’t see the Big Picture if you’re blocking part of their view.
Part of the key information to share includes reporting back to all team members the results of projects and initiatives. Have we met milestones? Did we achieve goals? Whether a success, failure or somewhere in between, let team members know the status of your company’s efforts.
When teams reach goals, the news is easy and exciting to share. If plans fall short of expectations, then the eagerness to spread the word is less thrilling. Whether a success or failure, the transparency of the message is where the true value lies.
Now that you know how to enact transparency, the next post in this series discusses the benefits you can expect to see.