What does this mean to the leader? It does not mean bare your soul and take the filter off of everything you say. It means to help your team execute by explaining the “why” behind your decision, the reason for a change or why something is suddenly really important to customers, to the business, for the overall health of the organization.
A recent study from the American Psychological Association stated 25% of employees don’t trust their employer. If you have had a recent employee survey in your organization, you may have seen how employees become disengaged if they have lack of trust with their immediate manager.
This is the key reason to be transparent. You will improve the engagement and accountability of your team, and help your team understand their role and its connection to the goals of the organization.
What about a decision from upper management that you are sworn to secrecy on, like a pending reorganization? Of course you cannot share the reason behind some of your actions, but if you are transparent on the items that you can share, and it is common practice that you share often, your people will learn to trust you.
Regarding over sharing: Keep it professional. Your team does not need to hear every thought you have or you will inadvertently miss-set expectations. Be careful that you do not promise what you cannot deliver. Also, transparency does not mean explaining everything, for that would be exhausting for the listener to have to wade through your litany of reasons, but putting a decision in the context of some current priority of your business will help. Some people process their thoughts by talking out loud. If this is you, practice with someone else so you don’t mislead your team.
But what if you cannot tell someone why you want them to take on more work? Maybe it is because their coworker is slacking. You cannot tell them that, but you can say you want to see how they deal with a new challenge, and indeed you will need to reward them for taking on more work. Or maybe you want to see how they perform at a new level. Go ahead and tell them this challenge is for their growth and development. As they hit these new goals, reward them.
I have said this before, when you can connect a decision you make or a top down decision made by your bosses, connect it to that key initiative or goal of the organization and it will help your team understand it better. Same goes for when you are giving recognition: Be transparent and state why this behavior is exemplary, why you want more of this particular behavior, like collaboration or problem solving or customer satisfaction.
Finally, what is in it for you?
1. Better relationships When it comes to building solid workplace relationships, trust takes center stage. Transparency builds trust.
2. Better alignment Employee alignment, for transparency’s sake, means taking a look at the big picture and seeking to understand everyone’s role within it. This is easily done when employers practice transparency in the workplace. Transparent leadership results in employees who understand the company vision and how their efforts help achieve company-wide goals. It is up to you, their manager to make this connection and draw the line between their behavior and those high level goals. Make it meaningful.
3. Better solutions Issues get solved faster when you tell your team about the problems. Then they can put their creative minds together to solve them.
4. Better engagement A culture that values transparency in the workplace breeds engaged employees. If you are a senior leader, you must continue to communicate as often as you can. This also sets the example for leaders at all levels in the organization, for they will copy your behavior. If you keep your managers in the dark, they will emulate your secrecy. However, when you are clear and transparent, they will trust you and reward you with great execution.