Keys to Trust: Transparency

Part 2 in a series on building trust

Keys to Trust: Transparency

Growing up I remember hearing the expression, “your daddy wasn’t a glass maker.” Too many times we see the same thing in leaders. The act of leading is filled with influence, but people are leery of being influenced by someone who hides behind the veil. As leaders, it is our responsibility to create transparency for our teams. Transparency builds trust and opens two-way communication.

Keys To Trust Series - Transparency

Lack of Transparency

Several years ago I worked for a Fortune 100 company. During my time there I was selected to serve as a Union steward and represent the union at the contract negotiations. The meetings went on for weeks, everyone met in the room under good-faith agreements, or so we thought. After putting in several hour days on numerous occasions, we finally found some middle ground and inked a new contract. Before the ink was dry, the company notified us that the entire business unit was being outsourced and everyone would be without a job within two months.

The lack of transparency in the company left a very bad opinion in our business unit’s mind. As someone close to the negotiations, I truly thought we were in the room under transparent conditions. Unfortunately, I was wrong and several people lost their jobs. A couple were able to retire, several were given early retirements. I only had a couple of years in at the company so it didn’t impact me as much as I thought it did at the time. The real losers were the middle employees. Those with 10-20 years in and faith in a company that wouldn’t let them down.

Unfortunately this is not unusual, a 2014 study by the American Psychological Association found that 25% of employees surveyed didn’t trust their employers. Worse, only about half feel their employer is honest with them. These are some large percentages that need to be worked out.

Accessibility Leads To Transparency

Transparency is related to accessibility. As the first part of the series covered the importance of being accessible, the connection between the two feeds one another. Through accessibility, you can be more transparent and the desire to be transparent will make you more accessible.

I do not think it is any surprise that politicians often fail at being trusted. It seems the buzzword in politics right now has to do with transparency. Sadly, most people crave the trust of others so bad that they will use these buzzwords to attempt to build trust. True leadership requires genuine transparency.

What is Transparency

Merriam-Webster defines transparency as “honest and open, not secretive”. Leaders should strive to be transparent to build the relationship, but also to do the right thing. In his book Entreleadership, Dave Ramsey talks about the importance of truthful communication. Although there are sensitive topics that cannot always be discussed publicly, being transparent as a leader could be as simple as stating, it is not something you can talk about or taking the advice of Ramsey and being upfront and providing the information once asked.

Transparency also extends to other aspects of an organization, but the topic that I am covering is specifically designed for the leader’s character rather than the organizations external transparency.

Ways To Build Transparency

  • Get Leadership on board

    Leadership must be on board and open to making a culture that embodies transparency. If the leadership team is not committed, the culture cannot change. Keep in mind that leadership is hard and you should transparent regardless of the rest of the team. Be the example.

  • Ask people’s opinion

    People love being included. Asking other people their opinion is a great way to achieve buy-in, build trust, and be transparent in operations. When you talk to other people and they feel that you are being open with them, you show the cards on the table.

  • Clearly state what your objectives are

    If you lay out what your objectives (agenda) are, you clearly tell your team where you are at on a topic. If they know that transparency is important to you, you will have objectives that back this up. Show them the cards in your hand.

  • Encourage teamwork

    When teams come together, communication opens and the best interests of the team outweigh personal endeavors. As the team grows, so does transparency. People love being a part of a winning team and will often out of their way to help it succeed.

  • Do what you say

    Part of transparency is fact checking. When someone says they will do X, then they have to do X for transparency to remain a positive thing. Don’t forget, many people can be seen through, but they may have negative intentions.

  • Accept feedback/criticism

    Giving your team members the benefit of communicating with you can have many benefits for you. Although it is rare for a leader to be subject to feedback or criticism from subordinates, earning their trust is the most important goal. Plus, others may come to you about an issue they see that could save your organization a lot of money. Listen, listen, listen.

Benefits Of Transparency

  • Authenticity becomes the norm

    When people know that everything is open, they become their true, authentic self. Knowing everyone on your team allows you to align your team and mission accordingly. Authenticity allows teams to bond faster.

  • Teams work faster

    Teams that are operating for the best interest of the organization are not as concerned about themselves. When personal agendas are not a factor, teams can operate faster. Collaboration of many minds help teams create more than a single person.

  • Performance increases

    As teams work more and more together, they become efficient. When efficiency grows, the performance of the organization can increase, possibly exponentially. What are you waiting for?

  • Influence over others increases

    As a leader, your primary goal is to lead with influence. As trust builds, so does your influence. I promise you, trust cannot build upon a firm foundation without transparency.

  • Better decisions are made

    When everything is out in the open, all of the information is available to make a decision. How many times have we read case studies that show that front line employees knew information that could have been beneficial to executives but there was no way to get that information to the top?

  • Communication improves

    True leadership is about serving. To serve someone you must be able to communicate with them. As your influence grows, you will intentionally communicate with others.

  • Employee engagement

    Unfortunately, employee engagement is lower than ideal levels. Gallup says 87% of employees are not engaged at work. This is insane when you consider that companies with highly engaged employees out perform their peers by 147%.

There Is A Line

Obviously there are lines that cannot be crossed. Sometimes information has to be protected due to laws, regulations, or contractual agreements. If your company is publicly traded there are entire books of laws on insider trading that prohibit some information from being released. The topic of transparency is much broader than just this.

Millennials Demand Transparency

Yep, its true. Millennials do not like the closed world. Call it what you want, but Millennials are now the largest single generation and they haven’t topped out yet. By 2020, Millennials will account for 50% of the entire workforce. If that scares you, plan on retiring by 2025 when they will account for 75% of the workforce.

If you or your company want to remain relevant in a Millennial dominated world, you better look at ways to be transparent. Remember, these are the people who share what they ate, where they are, and anything else you can imagine on social media. They are organically transparent.

The Ball Is In Your Court

Transparency has to be something that you believe in if you plan on incorporating it. It is not optional is you want to build trust, which is required for effective leadership. No one else can drive an effort to be transparent. It must start at the top.


Question: What are you going to do this week to be more transparent? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 thoughts on “Keys to Trust: Transparency