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What’s The Big Deal With Transparency? Well, A Lot Actually…

by Anthony Bontrager on February 18, 2014

“I’ve come to learn there is a virtuous cycle to transparency and a very vicious cycle of obfuscation.”

Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn

TransparencyRead any employee review on Glassdoor.com or elsewhere and you’ll undoubtedly see a consistent refrain from current and former employees to management – “Be More Transparent.”  You’ll also hear the same thing from advisory and corporate boards, albeit a bit more pointed: “Give us the full story damnit!”

But do people really want more transparency or simply the respect and trust that are engendered when transparency is provided??

Let’s look at this from two different perspectives…

For Employees, Transparency Is Assurance

They come in early and they stay late.  Hell, they even tell you your new subscription to @Bevel is totally hip.  And while paychecks, bonuses, titles and the iOS activated beer cooler are nice; at the end of the day all employees really want in exchange for their efforts is assurance.

They want the assurance management believes in them, that they are valued and most importantly trusted.  Trust is a two-way street and it’s incumbent upon management to take the lead by demonstrating transparency with their teams. This kind of open and honest communication with the troops not only solves the assurance gap, but will also serve amplify their sense of mission and purpose for their work.

Transparency requires no real effort on anyone’s part, yet it has the power to transform mere groups of people into highly functional and deeply dedicated teams.  Seems like a no brainer to me.

For Advisors and Board Members, Transparency Is Credibility

Serving as an advisor or on a board of directors is no picnic and in many cases can be a real pain in the ass.  Advisors and especially board members are there to offer advice and counsel to even the most seasoned executives.  They are assets that when used correctly help the organization scale, secure new business and mitigate any pitfalls that inevitably get experienced along the way.

All too often however, companies old and new, fail to reach their promise, in part because management fails to be fully transparent with their boards or advisors.  This severely undermines the company’s ability to take full advantage of these resources and can engender feelings of hidden agendas, which in turn creates a credibility gap between the CEO and his or her board or advisors.

Like employees, advisors and board members function at their best when they have the necessary information to provide value, have a relationship based on trust with management and feel part of the team.  Creating this type of environment at the advisory or board of directors’ level is what establishes credibility for management and can help ensure the company’s long-term success.

For Everyone, Transparency Pays

Look… It makes no difference whether you’re the CEO of your first startup or the CEO of a huge multi-national corporation – an executive capable of owning a situation (good or bad) through transparency has demonstrated his or her maturity and right to lead the company.  Period.

A CEO’s ability to leverage their assets to their fullest by ensuring everyone has timely access to critical information is what sets apart real leaders from titular CEO’s.  It’s the transition from adolescence to adulthood, plain and simple.

If you aren’t able to do that, perhaps you’re just not ready to sit in the big chair?

The Bottom Line

Net Net, the cause of poor transparency is less important than its effect on a company’s ability to give employees, advisors and board members the critical information they need to provide value to the company.

The practice of delivering honest communication that is clear, candid, allows for no ambiguities and most importantly tailored to the appropriate audience is a hallmark trait of a true leader.  However, just like with social media, over sharing is considered bad form.  Be judicial in what is conveyed, but above all, be transparent.

They say, “Information is Power.”  But I would offer that Power hoarded is ultimately Power lost.  So share it and dare to see how much more powerful your organization becomes.

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