Transparency is a highly-valued commodity throughout our world. Simply consider what we use, say and buy, and transparency’s importance to us is clear.
Large windows are influential selling features to most homes, rental properties and event venues.
To make sure we are understood, we aim to be “crystal clear.”
Without changing the taste or purpose, well-established brands relaunched clear versions of their products. From soap to computers, companies believed clear variations of their commodities would portray a purity to what they offer.
As a society, we value transparency. It allows us to see the landscape of our surroundings, informs us of what is inside and reinforces the truth we believe about a product, person or company.
As they say, “knowledge is power.” With the insight it provides, transparency empowers us all.
Although it may appear easily accomplished, effective transparency requires a strategic and intentional approach. Otherwise, it backfires (remember Crystal Pepsi?). In this series on transparency, I discuss:
Knowing the What, How and Why of Transparency, you can create a profoundly positive and lasting impact on your organization.
What Transparency Means
In the age of social media, transparency seems to be the norm. You can find a person’s deepest political believes on Facebook, what they had for lunch on Instagram and something they found funny on Twitter. Glimpses into a person’s thoughts and feelings are not hard to come these days.
That is not the transparency I’m discussing. Professional transparency is not full disclosure of all details and inner workings of every daily move and decision. It is not revealing the ingredients of the “secret sauce” that makes your company a success. Oversharing, personally or professionally, is not the goal when it comes to being transparent.
When it comes down to it, transparency in the workplace is simply having active and healthy relationships with team members based on honesty.
As with any successful relationship, an effective professional transparency strategy requires intention, commitment and work. To successfully create a transparent workplace, we must normalize key traits and practices of transparency.
Normalize Two-Way Communication.
Transparency requires a steady dialogue with open conversations that strive towards fulfilling the organization’s mission and achieving its vision. Leadership should communicate consistently and clearly with team members. Likewise, team members should have freedom and avenues to provide feedback, ask questions and submit suggestions.
According to Forbes, it makes a difference when employees believe their leaders hear them. They are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to deliver their best work.
This requires creating pathways to more frequent and open communication. I’ll discuss more strategies towards this purpose as this Transparency series continues. For now, consider this: at the proverbial decision making table, who has a seat? Are all departments and levels represented? How diverse do those surrounding the table look?
For two-way communication to meet its full potential, leaders need to do more than just make themselves available. They need to demonstrate that they hear all voices.
If you’ve been around a 4-year-old longer than one minute, you’ve been asked the question “Why?” Repeatedly. Maybe that is the age when the question enters our minds, and while me may suppress it better as we grow older, we still often wonder “why.”
Team members are no different. With every decision made, every product launched or discontinued, every restructure, every system cut or expanded, team members will wonder why.
As you share information, volunteer the “why” that drove leadership to the decision. Provide access to the resources and people who led the way. This doesn’t put you on the defensive or in a position where you have to explain yourself. Instead, you have the opportunity to include more of the team. Inform them fully of the process. This path encourages more buy-in to the final decision.
If you survey most companies, you would find “honesty” featured, articulated or referenced in their core values. It tends to be a relatively common theme among companies’ convictions, regardless of industry.
Honesty is the best policy, and it can come in many forms.
Depending on the laws governing your industry, some information is strictly confidential. Sharing this puts your company or even members of leadership in jeopardy.
Even if “why” is normalized, sometimes you’re legally bound not to share information. In these instances, how can you be fully honest?
Answering questions with honesty and clarity includes saying:
- “We can not share that information at this time.” (Then, explain why that is restricted)
- “That has yet to be decided. Once it is, we will follow up and share that with you.”
- “I don’t know the answer to that. I will look into that for you and follow up with you by [a specific day].”
Honesty doesn’t mean full disclosure of all you know. It means being transparent about what is shareable information and about what (and why) some information is not.
Knowing what to normalize in order to create a transparent culture, we discuss methods to make this transparency materialize in Part 2.