Transparency

Published: 06/24/2021 / Updated: 06/26/2021

So far, we've covered leadership, values, and vision, so let's do a quick run-through on transparency.

I am extremely transparent with my team — so much so that it's probably to a fault at this point, and I don't care. There is way more upside to being open than there is down. The goal of transparency is to give the team enough context to make decisions or inform leadership decisions to end up with the best possible results under the given circumstances.

I've had a ton of success with transparency for the following reasons: clear and open communication informs teams, enables accountability across all levels, and, most importantly — builds trust.

Teams that are informed deliver better results. They take ownership of what they do and understand the context of where their work sits within the greater whole. This post is about transparency, so I'll be upfront: I've given my team the stakeholder's motivations and called out when I disagreed with it, especially when it goes against what the team believes is right. These moments are not intended to bash stakeholders; stakeholders mean well, and their rationale is usually spot on, but that doesn't mean the team nor I agree with the desired solution. Instead, moments of transparency create bonds that unite the group. They get a clear picture of the "what" and the "why." We don't get bogged down in the "this is a dumb idea" conversations nor waste valuable time once they have the context — the focus shifts to delivering the best possible "how" within the set parameters.

Accountability through transparency is critical for keeping work on track. Once I tell the team my goals or motivations for doing a specific body of work — it provides an opportunity for a gut check to validate my reasoning. It's straightforward to call bullshit when you know what I am thinking when I am thinking it. Some leaders avoid these direct scenarios, while I, on the other hand, welcome this radical candor as it pushes us towards delivering the very best work.

Teams who trust you will work harder so it benefits you to build trust through transparency. Your team wants to know what's going on, why certain decisions are made and who is making them. This level of openness makes everyone feel like they are an essential part of the team. Teams get frustrated when execs or leaders show up out of the blue with a completely new org structure or roadmap. These examples erode trust. Motivations or goals aren't clear. Delivering the whole at once is very authoritarian. This way of leading may have worked 20-30 years ago, but not anymore. Expectations for how leaders lead have changed. Empathy, values, culture, and transparency are the new norms.

If you are struggling at sharing your values, motivations, or goals, then consider if it's time for a change of scenery. It could be your leadership style doesn't fit the company culture, or maybe you have shitty motivations and goals. If that's the case, you should question if you should be leading at all.