Today’s employees expect a certain level of transparency from not only the c-suite but also from their direct leaders. But what exactly does it look like to lead with transparency?
A transparent leader walks the line between being honest and oversharing. They’re vulnerable when the time comes but do so in a composed manner. Rather than brashly demanding obedience, they earn their employee’s buy-in and trust by answering questions, hearing out their concerns, and collaborating with them.
Granted, there will always be things leaders simply cannot share with their employees. In which case, it’s all about defining boundaries with employees and managing their expectations.
To help you figure out if you are in fact a transparent leader, here are six ways people leaders can become more transparent today.
You Explain the Reasoning Behind a Strategy or Decision
If you want your employees to get on board with a decision, embrace change, support a strategy, or buy-in to an initiative, then one of the best things you can do is be transparent about the reasoning behind it. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to divulge every detail of the decision-making process. Rather, focus on answering the“Why is this happening? Why now?” question that is typically on everyone’s mind.
You Openly Communicate About Metrics
It is quite common for those in leadership to keep things like company financials and other metrics hush-hush, which can inadvertently cause employees to speculate or feel anxious. While you may not be able to share everything, consider what you could communicate in terms of metrics to your team.
Take SRC holdings as an example. According to an Inc.com article, the leadership team started opening up the books of the business to employees in 1983 and made an intentional effort to teach them how their actions impacted the financials of the company. By being transparent, they found “employees were able to engage in intelligent and forward-looking decisions about margins and profits.”
You Take Responsibility for Your Actions and Own Your Mistakes
It is highly admirable among employees when leaders are transparent and humble when they’ve made a mistake. This may have something to do with the fact that for so long there was a narrative in the workplace that this type of transparency would undercut a leader's effectiveness, and so it was avoided. However, in today’s workplace, it can have quite the opposite effect. Not only may it build a sense of trust and connection, but taking responsibility for your part in a mistake will encourage others to follow suit.
You Welcome Questions and Try Not to Give Non-Answers
If you want to be a transparent leader, you need to avoid giving vague, run-around, non-answers to your employees' questions. If you do, it’s likely that your employees will pick up on the fact that you’re not actually answering their questions and become either frustrated or doubtful of you, neither of which are things you want. So instead, if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have a straightforward answer, politely say, “I don’t have an answer to that right now, but if you give me a day to think about it, I’ll reconnect with you on it.”
You Don’t Avoid the Difficult Conversations
When it comes to being a transparent leader, you cannot be afraid to have difficult conversations. Moreover, if you sugarcoat or drag out bad news, rest assured, your employees will see right through it. If this is an area you particularly struggle with, consider enrolling in a program like Difficult Conversations at Work or enlisting the help of a one-to-one coach. Both of which will help you gain the skills, tools, and above all, the confidence needed to be transparent but tactful in even the most challenging conversations.
You Make Information Easy to Access
According to a study conducted by Igloo Software, 60% of remote workers are still struggling with missing out on important information because it was communicated in person. It was also found that 51% of employees surveyed avoid sharing documents because they either can’t find them or it takes too long to do so. As a leader, these problems contribute to employees feeling like there is a lack of transparency. To fix this, look at implementing tools, systems, and processes that open the lines of communication for all and makes information easy for everyone to access, regardless of whether they are in the office or working remotely.
The former CEO of Starbucks once said, “I think the currency of leadership is transparency. You’ve got to be truthful. I don’t think you should be vulnerable every day, but there are moments where you’ve got to share your soul and conscience with people and show them who you are, and not be afraid of it.” In other words, transparency in leadership requires sound judgment, discretion, and top-notch communication skills. With those, you have the potential to increase employee productivity, motivation, engagement, and loyalty, as well as build a strong relationship based on trust and mutual respect.