Transparency in Leadership

August 25, 2023

One of the things that I love the most is to help other business owners. It gets me out of bed in the morning. I believe small businesses are what we need.

We need more entrepreneurs who are ethical and who want to do right by their employees, by their communities, and by their clients and customers.

The reality is, we have to be transparent with our teams. If we can’t or simply choose not to, our organization will never sustain growth.

So first things first… 

Do you trust everyone who is on your team? If not, why not? Is this something you can overcome, or is it time for that person to graduate to their next opportunity?

If you have a team that you trust, now it’s time to be transparent with them about… as much as you can.

There are some things you can’t legally discuss, such as, “Yeah, Dan’s not at work today because he has IBS” or “I know Kayla’s work has been faltering lately, but we need to give her some grace because her marriage is falling apart.”

So, setting illegal personal details aside, anything that is company related should be made transparent. 

Some of these things include:

  • The range of salary for their position.
  • Total revenue the company made this month, quarter, and year.
  • Total profit the company made this month, quarter, and year.
  • When you’re making a change to the organization.
  • What’s the vision for their position?
  • What’s the 12 month vision for the company?
  • Do you have any plans for them in particular to elevate in the company?
  • What would be a way they could supercharge their growth?

Transparency is a relational currency. In order to gain the relational currency we crave with our staff, we must first make deposits by communicating things that may be uncomfortable or unpleasant, but ultimately lead to growth.

The key when implementing transparency is not just what you communicate, but how you communicate it.

A while back, one of my companies decided it needed to make fairly intensive organizational shifts. Like many decisions at my companies, it was made quickly, and the execution was plotted out expeditiously.

From conception to implementation, it took three weeks. When it came time to implement the changes, leadership and I communicated transparently with the team about the how and why of what we were doing.

The response from the team, however, was an overall feeling that we weren’t transparent at all. In fact, some of our best middle managers considered putting out their resumes because of how we communicated the situation. 

What went wrong? 

Our process was so fast, we didn’t communicate along the way. We acted so swiftly that the update came after the process was finished.

In hindsight, we should have told staff the week after the leadership’s first conversation that we were talking about making an organizational change. We were not sure of the direction to take, but we were evaluating options. We’re driven by our values and mission towards our clients, and needed to shift in order to meet our own expectations.

So, we owned up to our mistake to the staff, and when the next “big change” came up, we handled it differently. The same leaders who were left reeling from the first episode felt confident in the new direction and took solace knowing that the leadership team had learned from their mistakes. 

What cannot be lost in this story is that the people who reported to the leadership team were transparent with their displeasure. Instead of just leaving the company, they demonstrated the beauty of transparency going both ways. They stepped up and called the leadership team in with their radical transparency. 

If you share what’s going on in the company and are honest with your people, they will honor you in return. 

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