Leadership Qualities: Transparency.


Accountability, Fairness and Transparency

Transparent leaders are first truthful with themselves. This conveys to their team that they have no hidden agenda, and also promotes engagement and performance.

Imagine that you are new in town and shopping around for business services.  Where will you go?  One establishment upon inquiry snubs your interest and says that your business is too small for them.  However, you are referred to a place where the customer’s needs are at the center of the exchange.  You are greeted warmly and taken to a cubicle in a den of similar parties.  Then you are carefully led through a process to begin establishing yourself.  It is almost a decade now since I had this initial experience, and I am still a committed customer today.  I have also referred their services to many who were once like me – looking for a place of welcome to start something new.

Transparency in business and in relationships will always win.  According to the Cambridge Dictionary, transparency is simply “The characteristic of being easy to see through” (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/transparency).  In business, it is the “Lack of hidden agendas and conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making” (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/transparency.html).

But don’t just take my word for it.  Let’s consider what others are experiencing as a result of transparency in business and other relationships.  The video below shows how this practice can increase a business by more than 90% in just one year.

Results from a survey of more than 40,000 participants showed that transparency is critical in maintaining an engaged and motivated work force.  Key findings include:

  1. Management transparency was highly correlated with employee happiness (employee engagement) at .937.  So, companies are increasingly using transparency to attract and retain top talent.  
  2. 82% said that their managers clearly outlined roles and responsibilities.  This reflects sound operational management and prompt delivery of targets.
  3. Management performed poorly in outlining their organization’s vision, mission and values.  Less than a half of the employees surveyed knew their organization’s vision, mission or values (42%).  For more see Lipman (2013; https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2013/12/11/new-study-shows-transparency-isnt-just-good-ethics-its-good-business/#45a1f99c1b99).

Other research among 451 military cadets showed that followers who rated their leaders high on transparent communication were also more engaged in their work over time.  It also showed that this engagement resulted in higher ratings of their performance (Vogelgesanga, Leroy & Avoliod, 2013).  Farrell (2016) has also explored the importance of transparency in communication and how it affects the provision of library services.  

In another study, Clear Company reported that “companies that promote good communication are 50% more likely to have lower levels of turnover. Additionally, businesses with high levels of engagement reported 22% higher productivity” (Gillett, 2014; https://www.fastcompany.com/3027948/why-your-office-needs-more-transparency).  And, the results are across cultures.  A ground-breaking study of 407 employees, randomly selected from a variety of medium and large corporations in China, showed that “face-to-face interactions and social media are the most effective channels in building organizational transparency, authenticity, and engaging employees in China” (Men & Hung-Baesecke, 2015). These results confirmed the strong positive effects of organizational transparency and authenticity on employee engagement.

Transparency can be achieved in simple steps and will not only change your professional relationships, it will also positively impact private relationships according to engineer, Ben Hempstead.

If you are looking for low to no cost initiatives that can be implemented immediately then transparency is it.  However, it requires continuous commitment from management to be more transparent to the team members that they so carefully brought on board.  In effect all the research supports the conclusion that employees who believe and trust management will work harder for them. So, as has been said, “At the end of the day, to give is to get.”

Interested in the power of transparency in cultivating strong relationships, check out transparent responses to tough questions in Dear Little Sister and Dear Little Brother at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/KeishaAMitchellPhD  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfPWaPCJ0vE  .

Photo courtesy of James Haworth on Unsplash.

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