Even before the pandemic, transparency was an overused, misunderstood buzzword that too many leaders and businesses used as a marketing tool and not a leadership tool. Whether it is used to position a low-quality consumer product trying to compete against a superior product by slapping a new label on a package or a senior leader feigning concern while really trying to push for more production, the term transparency is used too often when someone is actually not being transparent.
“I am going to be transparent here when I say…” is a scary way to start a sentence. So, let me get this straight, you are only transparent when you are telling me you are being transparent and the rest of the times you are hiding something?
Over the first three months of 2021, I have been involved with the design, development, and delivery of several major customized business simulations in leadership that are part of learning journeys to improve the competency of being transparent. It’s been an interesting ride so far because a lot has changed, and new lessons can and should be learned.
What Does Transparency Mean Today?
I start with asking the question, what does transparency actually mean? After you define it and begin to understand it, you can apply it to the way you lead and conduct business.
In its simplest form, business transparency means clear, unhindered honesty in the way that a person leads the business. But it must be and mean more than that. I recall one CEO say to a group of emerging leaders that transparency was a “lack of hidden agendas or insincere beliefs, complemented by providing the full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.”
The same executive further described it as an “essential condition for a free and open dialogue where the rules are fair for everyone.” Meanwhile, if you just Google transparency most definitions will define it as “the full, accurate, and timely disclosure of information.”
The truth of the matter is that business transparency is more than simple honesty and having a simple label that tells a consumer what’s really in that product they are eating. Being transparent is not something you do half-way. Getting a score of 5 on a 1-10 scale of transparency may be worse than getting a low score like a 1 because at least at a 1 people know you are dishonest all the time. Being halfway transparent means that people will never know what to believe.
I believe the pandemic has changed leadership behaviors for the positive in many areas and there is no turning back. Here are my three observations. Think about them in yourself and others and feel free to use them to help make yourself even more transparent.
Being More Genuine and Sharing Flaws
Working remotely has been a great equalizer for some and a great hindrance for others. I will share that nothing makes me happier than to be in a meeting and to hear a kid scream, “Daddy I’m hungry” at the most awkward time. The reason I enjoy it is that it makes the other person more genuine. When they embrace it and say, “Sorry, need to call you back” it is so much more refreshing and real that that the old school posturing that happens in a live office environment. The remote environment allows people to share their flaws and be more human and that is a very good thing.
Admitting You Don’t Have All the Answers
Being remote sometimes means being disconnected. Disconnected from data, disconnected from the people that you can snap your fingers at, and they magically have all the answers for you. In the remote world we have all learned that you can say “I don’t know” without the fear of repercussions, bullying, or feeling left out. Showing that vulnerability is one of the most important things you can do as a leader and there is a great new openness to that.
The best time to react to a situation by being truly transparent happened yesterday. Instead of learning how to go back in time, don’t let the situation happen the next time. Address areas of concerns before they become major issues. Get out in front of them and surround yourself with people who are also transparent and are driven to do it now.
In summary, it is no secret the business world has changed and hopefully for the better. Today’s leaders need every tip, technique, and tool they can get their hands on and being a transparent leader in 2021 and beyond may be the best tool of all. Being genuine, admitting you don’t have all the answers, and doing it NOW are three simple things you can start doing in 2 minutes.