We all know trust is the key to any successful relationship, and being transparent is one of the most impactful ways to build trust. Transparency is required if you want to create a culture of happiness, engagement, high performance and mutual respect. Employees in any organization have a deep desire to know what’s going on and why. They want to be heard and don’t want to fear the future or change. The only way to reduce fear and motivate them to be their best is to be transparent.
What is transparency? It’s the sharing of complete information, even if it’s ugly. It requires one to be a straight shooter: open, truthful and vulnerable. Here are some ways to be more transparent:
Open-door policy: If you don’t have anyone walking into your office to ask hard questions, give feedback or share concerns, your open-door policy isn’t working. It’s difficult for employees to bring up issues, so you have to do everything you can to make them feel comfortable doing so. Never get defensive, but be sure to ask questions, follow up and say “thank you.” If your employees aren’t proactively coming to you, invite them to talk. Say something like, “I get the feeling some people aren’t speaking up. I need insight to make things better. Can you tell me what you see?” You will probably get a softened truth at first, but this is how you can start to build better relationships with your employees.
Get out of your office: Don’t expect everyone to come into your office. Take your open-door policy to them. Walk around the facility and talk to employees, even those who report to other managers. Ask questions about their work, the issues they face and what they need in order to do their jobs better. Give them updates on what’s going on in your department and share stories. Tell them about an issue you are dealing with and ask for their opinions.
Talk to your employees: At my company, I hold regular “town hall” meetings with individual departments to encourage questions and give my employees deeper organizational insight. Every person within that department submits anonymous questions before the meeting, which I answer candidly. Nothing is off-limits. We also hold monthly company meetings where we share major issues and wins. If a mistake is made or we aren’t performing like we should be, we talk about it. We share financial information, give strategic updates, and outline changes we are making and initiatives we are planning. We are clear when something is confidential and must be kept that way. We show our employees we trust them to use good judgment.
Seek feedback: There are lots of informal ways to get feedback from the organization. All managers should be working with their teams to understand what’s going right or wrong. Whether one-on-one or in team meetings, you should always ask for feedback. I also recommend conducting a formal, anonymous survey of employees. Some of the feedback may be painful, but you’ll be able to put together an action plan to address the issues, and your employees will be grateful you asked for their opinion.
Be honest about why people leave: There is nothing that clouds transparency more than misleading your employees about why someone is leaving the company. There is a delicate balance between protecting the privacy of a terminated or resigning employee and telling your employees the truth. Honesty is always the best policy. Assume everyone will find out the truth anyway. It may be hard for some employees to hear the truth, but at least they know you are being honest.
Show vulnerability: The only way to be transparent is to be vulnerable. Humans need to connect on a deeper level to build solid, high-functioning relationships. It’s hard to connect with someone you don’t know. I’m not saying you need to disclose your deepest, darkest fears, but be willing to share some of yourself and always admit when you don’t have the answer or when you have screwed up.
To build a high-performing organization, transparency is essential. It takes time to build trust, so take it slow and be authentic. Be forthright with information, keep your promises and always tell the truth.