Transparency matters for a company’s culture, because it builds trust and stronger relationships between employees, management and the company itself. Keeping everyone in the loop leads to more collaboration and shared learning, greater creativity, faster problem-solving (there’s less back and forth!) and ultimately improved performance. Most important, it keeps leaders honest. It’s hard to hold an out-of-whack perspective if there’s an abundance of open information pointing in a different direction.
But maintaining authentic transparency in a fast-growing company’s culture is not easy. are my top four tips for business owners who are committed to instilling and promoting transparency:
- Promote candid conversations with your team.
Encourage employees of all levels to ask tough questions to members of the senior leadership team about what’s on their minds. Your employees are the ones on the front lines so they are more likely to spot the glitches or issues percolating in the background more quickly. To help everyone feel comfortable speaking their minds or raising concerns, construct a range of regular opportunities for different types of people to ask sensitive questions in different ways.
- Access isn’t enough.
Transparency sometimes requires opening up what can seem like a floodgate of information and data for public viewing. But providing access isn’t always enough. Ask employees what they want to know, and then set up processes to deliver that information in an efficient and digestible way.
- Teach people how to give and receive honest feedback.
It is important to teach managers how to give honest, constructive feedback to make everyone more efficient and engaged. In this way, communication is encouraged and desired.
- Proactively share bad news.
Employees don’t like to be kept in the dark, especially if they sense something important or unsettling is going on behind closed doors. They want to be kept informed about important issues, blunders or changes, even if it’s not great news. Understanding the context around a sticky situation will at least help your team better empathize with any hard decisions you will no doubt need to make in time.
If you withhold information, people will simply make up what they don’t know, often assuming the worst, and a dramatic game of telephone may ensue. Rumor propagates anxiety and tension at every level of a company. If you only share good news people will immediately think you’re looking at the world through rose-colored glasses or purposefully misleading the team. Sharing bad news is valuable in building trust.
The big challenge here is being upfront, honest and reassuring without provoking alarm, unrest or distraction from broader team goals. Use your discretion on the best channel to deliver the news, and then work with a small team you trust to nail your narrative and key messages around the perceived problem and your game plan.
Engendering a transparent workplace should be a key organizational focus for every business. It helps build trust that management is making good and balanced decisions. There’s no magic formula, but a commitment to authentic transparency and small steps can go a long way.