Trust and transparency have become popular workplace demands as employees seek to be aware of what is real and true. People have grown tired of surprises and want to exist in a work environment that allows one to have greater clarity of thought – by eliminating the unknowns that continue to creep into our minds with each decision we make or relationship we foster. If you survey the workplace, besides the need for job security and career advancement opportunities – employees want to be a part of a workplace culture that puts a premium on delivering the truth. They desire their leaders to be proactive in sharing where the company is headed and forthright about its future. In other words, they just want transparency so they can plan and protect themselves.
The days of utopia are over in the traditional workplace. Most people now realize they need to look out for themselves if their employers are unwilling to do so. As such, companies will lose top-talent if they are not mindful of their employees’ needs – and concurrently pay a heavy price to replace them and rebuild the momentum that was left behind.
Just think of how many careers would have been salvaged and discovered if transparency had been part of the corporate culture equation.
Being transparent is a powerful thing, if you can trust yourself and be trusted by others. The reason most leaders are not transparent is because they believe they will be viewed as less authoritative; that the credentials they worked so hard to attain will lose their power, leverage and gravitas. This is the problem with most leaders, they are not aware of the reality that exists around them. People want to relate to its leaders. People want to know that their leaders have experienced the same problems and/or how they have overcome personal hardships.
The digital age has allowed people to learn more about their leaders. As such, social media has suddenly given people the permission to enter a leader’s personal space; a place they were previously prohibited from entering. The digital age has changed the levels of transparency that we expect from people too.
We are all living during a time when people want and expect their leaders to be more human, less perfect and at times a bit vulnerable – regardless of hierarchy or rank.
This need for transparency in society is at an all-time high. There is a reason people would rather “see” a video blog than “read” a blog. They want access to one’s facial expressions, eye contact and body language. People want to evaluate whether someone is acting or being genuine. As mentioned in my American Dream blog – people want leaders who can deliver balance between knowledge (the head) and wisdom (the heart).
For leaders in the workplace, this means it’s time to be transparent by communicating less over email and through third-party communication – and become more personally engaged with their employees via face-to-face and/or video interaction and with greater frequency. This will not only build trust, but more importantly set-forth a precedent that will transcend through team(s), and establish a new type of loyalty and attitude that will ripple throughout the organization.
Here are five powerful things that happen when a leader can be transparent:
1. Problems Are Solved Faster
Employees learn more about one another and can grow to work toward solving problems faster when their leaders are transparent. For example, I can remember when my former boss would challenge us to reduce the budget every quarter. When we submitted the revised plan, we were told to give it another pass – multiple times over. After confronting my boss, he told me – “Glenn, I am being told that I must achieve a specific bottom line performance this year and if I don’t, I am going to have to cut staff. I would rather not scare anyone.” I responded by recommending that if he openly shares his concerns with our team and that if someone was not able to handle the truth – then we would discover another problem. In other words, my boss’ senior team would be more effective at designing a strategy to exceed performance requirements – rather than cutting a budget. We did and my boss learned a valuable lesson about how to solve problems by being transparent about them.
2. Teams Are Built Easier
Transparency is a powerful unifier – as was the case in the aforementioned example, it forces a team to work smarter together. But team building through transparency takes shape when the leader of a team can openly discuss what he believes are the strengths and weaknesses of the team. Why? It allows everyone to openly share the perspectives and opinions – creating a platform where the leaders (with help from the team itself) can begin to strategically match people to handle certain assignments based on specific performance requirements (amongst other things).
When leaders can be deliberate about their team profile and concerns – as it pertains to both individuals and the collective unit – this allows the group to mature together and find creative ways to discover the best mix/match to deliver on performance expectations. It cultivates an entrepreneurial spirit that allows for cross functional responsibilities and opportunities.
3. Relationships Grow Authentically
Transparency brings people together that have not yet discovered one another. For example, last year my company designed a leadership strategy for a client. Based on the outcomes of one-on-one 360 interviews, assessments, etc. – we decided to create a 5 person leadership team that would be responsible for a specific task. None of the 5 people knew each other and their titles and ranks were different within their organization. But we discovered during our pre-work that the character traits and tendencies of these individuals, while different – complemented one another. The result: a vibrant team of uniquely different leaders forged a powerful relationship, not by choice – but rather as a result of each of them being authentic and true to each other.
It is also important to note that transparency allows relationships to mature faster, as openness can potentially avoid misunderstandings that can fuel unnecessary tension.
Relationships don’t truly begin to take shape until a problem is encountered and resolved together.
4. People Begin to Promote Trust in Their Leader
When leaders are transparent, people can be much more objective in evaluating the pros and cons about their leader. If you are transparent, especially during the worst of times, you actually strengthen your leadership as people begin to trust you as person and thus will respect you more as a leader.
Remember this: Employees may have trusted their leaders in the past, but after their leader becomes transparent their employees are now more willing to promote trust in their leader with others. This eliminates any preconceived judgments that others may have had of the leader whose transparency they had yet to experience.
5. Higher-Levels of Performance Emerge
Each of the preceding points is interdependent and builds upon one another. This naturally takes us to point #5: higher-levels of performance. The formula is simple:
Efficient problem solving + the ability to build teams easier + the development of authentic relationships + trust = higher levels of performance.
It’s really that simple. Unfortunately, the lack of transparency that still exists among leaders in the workplace can potentially put one of these powerful factors at risk – which leads to less optimal levels of performance. The irony is that in the end, it’s the leader that loses when performance wanes.
It’s better to be open and honest on the front-end, because if not – you may not be around long enough to see the back-end: the success and significance of being a great leader who served to inspire hope and opportunity by not allowing power to stand in the way of honesty, authenticity and being genuine with people