JUNE 28, 2024

My Leadership Guiding Principle #3: Transparency

Having your own leadership standards can help you act with integrity in tough situations, feel good about yourself, and inspire others to follow you anywhere. My four guiding principles are fairness, equity, transparency, and consistency. I’d like to share what transparency means to me in this post.

When I think about being transparent, it starts with being open, upfront, and straightforward.

There’s a huge benefit to ensuring that my leaders, managers, and staff are all aware of what’s happening in the organization. When people understand the decision-making process that led us to where we are, they’re more likely to be on board.

Being transparent doesn’t mean I’m looking for agreement or approval. It just means that when the people around me know the why, what, and the how, they can see that decisions were made with some thoughtfulness so that even if they’re not aligned or agree with me, it makes it easier to buy in and support what I’m doing.

A great example of this is performance requirements. When we’re transparent about how people are evaluated, about how we define a high, average, or low performer, and how an individual’s performance is scored or rated against clear benchmarks, there are no surprises when it comes time for bonuses, pay raises, and promotions.

Transparency Builds Trust

Transparency is not just about sharing information; it’s about sharing it openly, honestly, and proactively. It’s about creating a culture where employees feel informed, involved, and invested. When leaders are transparent, they build trust—a trust that becomes the foundation of a strong, resilient organization.

Transparency Contributes to a Healthy Workplace Culture

A transparent workplace is one where:

  • Decisions are explained, not just announced.
  • Feedback is encouraged, not just accepted.
  • Mistakes are acknowledged, not just corrected.

This kind of environment fosters a sense of ownership among employees. They feel empowered to contribute, knowing that their voices are heard and their perspectives valued.

Transparency With Sensitive Topics

Leaders often face situations where full disclosure isn’t possible, such as during mergers or internal investigations. Yes, you can’t always reveal everything, but that doesn’t mean you need to hide everything.

Transparency exists on a continuum, and leaders should carefully assess what’s at risk in order to manage how much information is shared. Crafting messages with care, sometimes with the help of your communications team or an expert is crucial in these scenarios.

Being transparent can sometimes simply mean acknowledging that there’s a situation without divulging all the details. People know when something’s up. They’re going to talk. Rumors can be very disruptive. Leaders shouldn’t shy away from getting ahead of the rumors and controlling the narrative.

It’s possible to openly discuss a process, or share where things stand at the moment, while making it clear that certain questions can’t be answered at this time. You can commit to sharing information “when you can,” or “when circumstances allow,” or “at the appropriate time.”

By not hiding, masking, deflecting, you maintain your integrity while reassuring employees that you are in control and won’t compromise sensitive information.

“Team, I understand there are concerns about potential changes within our organization. While I can’t divulge specifics at this time, I want you to know that our leadership is committed to our collective success. We are exploring avenues that will enhance our company’s future, and I promise to share more information as soon as it’s appropriate.”

One important point is to be hyper-aware of your tone and presentation when addressing tough issues. A confident and affirmative response can convey control and reduce speculation that something is being hidden. A frustrated or defensive tone can erode trust quickly. It’s essential for leaders to maintain composure and communicate effectively, even when they can’t provide all the answers.

It’s equally important to close the loop when more information can be shared. Revisiting the conversation later to provide updates demonstrates respect for the employees’ need for information and reinforces trust in leadership.

Transparency is the clear path to trust, and trust is the currency of effective leadership. By embracing transparency, leaders can create a culture of openness that not only improves employee engagement but also drives organizational success.

Let’s clear the path and lead with transparency, ensuring that every employee understands the why, what, and how behind decisions, and feels confident in the fairness of the things that affect them.

If you struggle with transparency, you might benefit from Executive Coaching. Give us a call.