One of the timeless leadership behaviors is transparency and it’s an action that can gain you both customers and high-performing employees.
Given how the world of work has shifted in the past month, leaders and companies will need to up their transparency to build trust and increase performance.
3 Practices for Transparency
There are many companies practicing transparency externally: Patagonia is open about their supply chain and Southwest Airlines flipped the script with fare transparency, or “transfarency.” But, compared to the amount of companies being transparent with their customers, there are few companies practicing internal transparency with their employees.
Like many of my clients, you may be asking yourself, “How?!” Here are three ways companies can leverage this time of change to practice transparency with their employees:
Start Sharing More Detail
My guess is your company has shared their mission, vision and values, but not their financial losses, their concerns or even details on how they make their money. And, it’s understandable. Being transparent puts you in a place of vulnerability, which historically has been viewed as detrimental.
Yet there are many companies, like Accelity Marketing, who are practicing transparency with their employees in a paced, intentional way. I sat down with their founder and CEO, Jackie Hermes, on a recent episode of the Build High Performing Teams Podcast and we discussed how her transparency has shifted over the years.
Not only does Accelity have formal off-sites twice each year where they discuss the workings and financials of the company, they also share frequent updates with their employees – especially right now. Hermes wasn’t always so open. After hitting a financial dip in the business a few years back and not sharing information with her employees, Jackie changed her tune.
“I have learned to be really flexible and not to take the hits really hard. I was telling my team, ‘Now that I’ve told you all the stories of the things I’ve had to do previously to make payroll, you won’t be nervous about getting paid. You know I’ve got plans.’” - Jackie Hermes
You can choose the topics and times to practice transparency, but please make it a goal to increase what you’ve been sharing in order to draw your employees closer.
When you start to share more about why decisions are made, when things will happen and how it could affect individuals and teams, you are building trust. That trust is critical according to Kim Malone Scott, author of the wildly popular book, Radical Candor. Scott shares, “Your ability to build trusting, human connections with the people who report directly to you will determine the quality of everything that follows.”
Start the quality chain of events that Scott speaks of by asking for your employees’ input. How are we doing with _____? What do you think about ____? How could we have done ____ better? How can we leverage our employees better? And my favorite: What could I do better or differently to support you?
Ask, ask, ask. Build trust, encourage transparency and your employees will give it back to you.
You Aren’t Pollyanna
I am a fan of leaders and employees erring on being future-focused. But, goodness – please don’t lay it on like honey on poop! If the situation could make some people uncomfortable, sad, confused, or upset (hello, Covid-19!?), then you should make sure your tone isn’t overly positive.
I’ve seen leaders and companies slowly erode trust overtime when they refused to acknowledge the bumps in the road. As much as what they were saying about the positive things was true, there was more to the story that never got acknowledged. And that absence of information or acknowledgment makes employees feel even more confused.
My best tip here is to share what’s true – good and bad. Then share what you’re hopeful for. BE CAREFUL that audiences don’t hear you overpromise. Here are tips to communicate:
Distinguish between what you know and what you hope for.
An example of what to say about what’s fact: “Here’s what I know for sure.”
And for your hope, “My hope for the future is ______.”
Get After It
Being transparent, like most behaviors and habits, is a practice. Keep practicing, noticing how individuals and groups respond, adjust accordingly and repeat. For more content on transparency, especially during this time of change, listen to the full episode of the Build High Performing Teams Podcast. Jackie Hermes’ episode, Owning Your Cultural Strengths as a Company & Team, is a great listen!
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Peace and Progress,