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Transparency has become nothing but a buzzword thrown around in leadership circles. The word’s meaning has been diminished by its indiscriminate—but seemingly essential—use in boardrooms, interviews, and emails.
A transparent workplace moves beyond the hierarchical companies of the past that thrived on departmental silos and need-to-know, reactive information sharing. Leading with transparency, managers eliminate murky processes and vague expectations that lead to disconnected, ineffective employees.
Some cultivate a culture where employees are invested in their own professional outcomes and devoted to the organization’s overall success. This happens when there is a misalignment of incentives.
If leaders aren’t projecting transparency, then what are they projecting? And how can managers lead with the openness and honesty needed to foster an engaged workforce?
When many leaders say “transparency,” they mean “visibility.” Too often, managers want a unidirectional look into employees’ activities, especially in remote or hybrid work models. Instead of providing accountability on both sides of the managerial fence, leaders want a single pane of glass view.
A truly transparent approach must go both (actually, all) ways. That means: no one’s goals, targets or outcomes are shrouded in secrecy.
Managers should amplify information, particularly the enterprise’s direction and each employee’s role and responsibilities in advancing it forward.
Committing to transparency over visibility requires a high degree of leadership vulnerability. Leaders have to share the good news with the bad, own misguided decisions and force hard conversations. At times, they must be willing to admit failure.
There’s a reason why high-performing enterprises put a premium on strategic alignment: it’s the vehicle of authentic transparency.
Aligning a workforce starts with a defined organizational vision and mission and a strategy for how the enterprise will reach those goals. These essential elements provide the framework for every role and responsibility within the enterprise. Indeed, even tasks should track back to the clearly articulated overarching organizational goals.
The entire workforce should have insight into the goals of other departments and how each employee supports the other in pursuit of a common organizational goal. Such alignment enables valuable cross-functional collaboration and plain old mutual understanding.
But before workforces can deliver on strategic alignment, leaders need to communicate the information and make it readily available to every employee.
With an actual picture of what success looks like, employees can work toward goal achievement and better deliver on the organizational strategy. And that creates the employee engagement and investment organizations want and the meaning and impact knowledge workers need.
Instead of dropping “transparency” or any other corporate buzzwords, leaders should focus on workforce alignment as a less abstract way to engender mutual trust, inspire employee buy-in and build high-performing teams. A culture rooted in transparency is necessary, but workforce alignment is the best way to get there.
I get my inspiration from nature and objects around me.
Selective transparency is not transparency.
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