Transparency, in a business context, is all about honesty and openness. A high level of transparency inspires trust and engagement with your team by eliminating the fear of the unexpected and removing the sense of foreboding that change can bring when badly communicated (or not communicated at all). The reality is that people want to work inside a culture where they can build relationships with each other and their leaders, confident that what needs to be said will be—good or bad. As a leader, you must be approachable and create that environment of honest communication.
Transparency happens when the leader of a team can openly discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the team and the business. Then, that leader must empower everyone else to confidently share their thoughts and opinions in return. When you as a leader are transparent, especially during the worst of times, you actually strengthen your leadership as people begin to trust you as a person and respect you more as a leader.
Let’s take a minute to talk about trust. A 2017 survey by Edelman revealed that 63% of employees don’t trust their employer, boss, team or colleagues. That is not what we want in our businesses, folks. And while a lot of factors improve trust in the workplace, leaders being more open and transparent with their teams is by far the best way to achieve that.
How do you build trust and reassure your team about transparency? Ongoing, quick and frequent 1:1s with your team is a great place to start. If you’ve read any of my blogs on culture and engagement, you know how important I believe these “touching base” meetings are. Trust starts with honest, open conversations—what we call the “truth in the room”—and the frequency of those exchanges matters just as much as the content itself. In our company, we start with daily team huddles, then layer on weekly meetings and finally add our big quarterly leadership updates, all augmented by internal communications and quick calls when needed. Trust me, people, we talk A LOT at ITBD.
Why do we talk so much? Because building transparency and trust demands consistency. Be steadfast about talking with your team, and encouraging open, truthful communication as well as actively listening to your team when they do share their feedback.
Teams greatly reflect the behavior of their leaders, so as you model transparency, your team will begin to embrace that approach as well, with you and between each other. Having teams that openly share problems they’re facing and lessons they’ve learned will drive trust between employees, as well as encouraging more collaboration and greater productivity.
As leaders, we don’t need to have every conversation with the doors wide open, but we do need to make sure people feel secure in their role within the organization, that they feel heard, and they don’t feel that there are “favorites” who are more informed than everyone else. That is how you build a culture that values Openness, Diversity, and Inclusion—the foundations of a positive corporate culture.