TransparencyTrustTransparency begets trust.  It is that simple, though the process is a delicate dance of opening yourself to critique by staff, stakeholders and clients.

Take the current debate to see how trust and transparency play out in the largest arena to date, global politics and US citizens.  On one side of the debate is Edward Snowden and on the other is the US government.  Snowden accuses the US government of not being transparent about data collection of US citizens, foreign governments and foreign nationals.  The lawsuits that will soon be making their ways through courts deal with how can US citizens trust that their private information, protected by constitutional rights, remains anonymous  when the US governments has not been transparent in the fact that it was collecting this information, stating which information it is collecting and showing how it uses this information.  There have been flurries of activity to be more transparent about the PRISM program, but trust in the government’s willingness to be transparent about the program has been severely eroded. 

Transparency from leaders creates a company culture that is unified, collaborative, loyal and doesn’t fear innovative risk-taking.  These results feed into each other and create a workforce harmoniously moving together towards success. By being transparent in the goal and processes of your company and how employees will be evaluated within these, employees know ‘how to work’.  They can continuously access explanations of expectations and guide their work accordingly.  Transparency creates collaboration because the goals of different departments are clearly accessible to all within the organization.  So, when brainstorming or beginning a new project, employees know where to access talent and knowledge that the team needs.  Employees become more loyal to the organization because they see leaders who act like typical humans and not untouchable emperors. Most recently, the post “Wired for Empathy, Wired for Profitability” discusses how empathy, showing someone else that you understand where they are coming from by being transparent and expecting them to likewise be transparent, affects the bottom-line. (More information about how opening up your personal side benefits the work environment are in these ThinkingIntegral posts “Thriving on Social Connections”, “A Drink of Compassion to Numb the Stress”).  Finally, being transparent means that you speak about the risks you have taken, ones that were successful and ones that were failures, which encourages employees to risk innovation because you understand that not every idea works out for the best. Transparency within your organization also affects future success.  As Dorie Clark points out in her Harvard Business Review blog, transparency is brand insurance and transparency attracts talent to your organization.

John Bernard, in his book, “Business at the Speed of Now” describes how to create transparency, “The key to transparency is giving others in the organization the information and ability to influence by offering ideas and demonstrating responsibility.” In his book, he suggests seven leadership behaviors for creating transparency within your organization. 1) seek facts, not blame 2) ask for and offer help 3) speak the truth respectfully 4) think organizationally, act departmentally 5) engage fully 6) laugh and play 7) share leadership.  In other words, transparently model the behaviors and ethics that you want employees to identify with.

Often, there is a fear to transparency and that is being transparent makes your cracks visible and open to misuse by others.  Let’s review the case of Snowden and the US government’s nontransparent actions.  Sure, the subterfuge of PRISM was hidden for awhile, but, once uncovered, it became the nexus for distrust by citizens and allies and a very thorny distraction from leading the nation.