If you’re reading this article, you’ve also come to acknowledge the importance of transparency in the workplace. You have probably searched online, trying to figure out what the secret sauce is to create transparency within your team. I did the same thing years ago when we first set transparency as a company value. What became very apparent to me while browsing the web though, was that everyone wanted it but no one knew how to gain it.
I found a couple of “How to” articles online, but while their advice may have seemed clear at the moment — “Hire transparent employees” and “Give employees access to information”, over time I realized how it was all far from being actionable or well defined. The reason being that transparency can mean different things to different people – What one person may view as transparent, could differ greatly in their colleague’s eyes. The company may give employees access to information, but what type of information is the one which creates transparency?
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Everyone knows how it feels when there’s transparency, just like how everyone knows to recognize when they are listening to a good song. However, when it comes to creating it, same as with music, there is no formula. That’s because creating transparency is an art, to get good at it, one must continuously practice.
In this post, I will cover actionable recommendations to practice and create transparency in one-on-one interactions, within your team and between the people you work with.
Don’t make assumptions
We have already seen that the meaning of transparency can vary between people. For this reason, you shouldn’t assume that you know what’s required in creating it.
What assumptions could you possibly make?
First, you could assume that people know something they don’t. For example, you could start a conversation about a challenge you are facing as a team from the perspective of someone in the know, rather than explaining the flow of events that got you there to start with.
Instead, you should zoom out, explain the rationale and the background, what led you to this particular point and what you wish to achieve. This is just an example, the scenario could be different but the means should be the same, zooming out and providing all of the information required, not assuming that everyone is on the same page.
Secondly, when you hear people say there’s no transparency, instead of assuming that you know what they are referring to, ask them, dig deeper. Ask them which areas they feel are lacking transparency and why. After you receive all of the feedback, instead of assuming you know what needs to be done, try involving them in the thought process. Suggest actions to address the missing transparency and ask them whether they believe these could help. By doing this, you’re not only reserving assumptions over what you believe might be helpful, you’re also (already) being more transparent by sharing what you think should be the next step and also enabling the other side to be the one that expands their circle of influence, by leading by example.
Establish team traditions
When we asked our team members at Minute Media about the reasons which made them feel like there is a lack of transparency, one reason stood out as very interesting- People felt that they didn’t know what the other people working on the same floor actually did on a daily basis. Once we got to the bottom of this problem, it was much easier to find a solution.
“I find that when you open the door toward openness and transparency, a lot of people will follow you through.”
– Kirsten Gillibrand
We have established a tradition we call ‘Spotlight’- once a week, the team gathers for 30 minutes in the center of our open space to hear three colleagues talk about what they are currently working on. The only rule is that there are no rules — no presentation is required, no minimal length of talk, no barrier to stop someone from participating. It doesn’t matter if you’re part of the tech, design, product, BI or SEO team, if you’re on the floor, you are there.
This tradition has removed one of the obstacles we have had in our way to transparency but we didn’t stop there. We continuously try to improve Spotlight — either by checking new concepts such as ‘Fuckup talk’, where someone shares an event with the team in which he was sure he was doing the right thing but eventually messed up. This enables us to learn important lessons from each other’s experiences. In addition, we’re hosting guest speakers from around the organization who can contribute to the team’s knowledge and understanding of the big picture. Some ideas work out better than others but you will never know what will end up working for your team unless you try.