Leading Business Problem #3: Lack of Transparency

At Fierce, we often talk about the impact that withholding truths can have on an organization and the people within it. In our latest eBook, we call out lack of transparency as the third leading business problem businesses are facing today.

Our founder and CEO Susan Scott spoke at a TedXOverlake event. In her talk titled "The Case for Radical Transparency," she addresses the common misconception that people can't handle the truth. "My experience of most people," she says, "is quite opposite of 'we can't handle the truth.' There is something within us that responds to those who level with us. Who don't suggest our compromises for us."

The reason transparency is so important is that it goes hand in hand with trust. You can't have one without the other. And without them, your workplace culture and relationships will suffer. Lies and secrets break trust, while honesty and transparency build trust. And when trust is created, it leads to a heightened sense of security and better employee performance.

According to Edelman Trust Barometer, 82% of employees don't trust their boss to tell the truth. That's huge. As you can imagine, this has a massive impact on culture. Where transparency is missing, so too is trust. When employees don't trust their leaders or each other, it creates a feeling of unsafety, and as a result, they mirror leadership's behavior by withholding what they really think and feel. Meanwhile, businesses lose out on a number of factors that drive results, including innovation, talent, and productivity to name a few.

Client Highlight

Prior to their work with Fierce, Wolverhampton Homes was an organization struggling with trust and transparency issues in their culture.

While staff showed considerable potential and enthusiasm, lack of trust was evident at all levels—between direct reports and managers, managers and senior leaders, senior leaders and individual contributors as well as among colleagues. This meant employees were not freely sharing information, open in collaboration, or candid during confrontation.

With the intention to transform their culture, they implemented a number of Fierce programs, including confrontation.

After the program rollout, they were able to make significant changes in both workplace culture and business. Staff engagement increased, and managers grew more confident in themselves and others. They also progressed from a 0-Star housing service with performance issues to an award-winning ALMO with the highest-possible ranking: 3 Stars.

"Fierce Conversations has made an amazing difference," said Lesley Roberts, CEO of Wolverhampton Homes. "We now have a shared language and style of behavior which gets the best out of our terrific workforce. I am proud to say learning how to have Fierce Conversations has helped us attain 3 Stars with Excellent Prospects from the Audit Commission who recognized our strong leadership and massive cultural change."

Learn more about their challenges, rollout, and results here.

In our eBook, we recommend three Fierce programs to increase transparency in your organization and create a culture of trust: Confrontation, Feedback, and Foundations.

Here's a look at just some of what's presented in these programs that will help grow a sense of trust in your organization.

Fierce Confrontation

1. Confront an issue without placing blame. One reason people often avoid confrontation is because we're afraid of alienating the other person, blaming them, or damaging the relationship. The reality is that when confrontation is approached skillfully, it has the power to create the opposite—a relationship built on trust and honesty. Easily discern between the issue that needs to be resolved and the person you're confronting so that you can both leave the conversation feeling connected and on a path towards a solution.

2. Keep the conversation on track when someone denies, defends, or deflects. Confrontation can stir up some uncomfortable feelings and fear-based reactions, often referred to as the amygdala hijack. Whether you're being confronted or confronting someone else, gain the confrontation skills that will allow you to stay connected to the other person, despite the natural human tendency to defend ourselves when we're confronted.

3. Enrich relationships with honesty and respect. When someone is honest with us and willing to overcome the discomfort of confronting the issue, we learn to trust that they'll tell us the truth. When leaders and employees know how to confront skillfully, it influences not only the one-on-one relationship but the health of the company culture as well. Keep each other's best interest at heart while also addressing and resolving the issue at hand.

Fierce Feedback

1. Avoid anonymous feedback. Imagine if the results came back from an anonymous survey and you learned that someone has an issue with you or your performance. Who is it, you might wonder, and why don't they feel comfortable enough to tell me? If someone you work with has an issue with your performance, having the honest feedback conversation provides them, and you, an opportunity to build trust through transparency. Anonymous feedback leads to the opposite, causing people to hide their true feelings behind an "anonymous" label. Learn how to give honest feedback so that you can strengthen trust and come out from hiding.

2. Debunk the myth of positive vs. constructive feedback. There's a myth that some feedback is constructive while other feedback is positive, and that's just not true. All feedback should have the intention of being constructive and providing information that the other person can use to grow. If we know how to set intentions that are clear and go into a feedback conversation with the skills to address what's working well and what isn't, we naturally increase our own levels of transparency.

3. Request feedback. Whether you're a leader or individual contributor, there's gold to be discovered when you request feedback. This communicates to the other person, "I care what you think, and I want to know how I can improve" and invites them to be transparent with us. Learn how to request honest feedback in a way that helps establish two-way trust with the other person.

Fierce Foundations

1. Create a new foundation built on trust. Laying the groundwork for a common language goes a long way in improving communication and increasing transparency by removing the barriers that are preventing you from having the important conversations. Lay the groundwork for transformation across your organization by teaching what to talk about and how to talk about it in a way that removes old assumptions, sparks new insight, and builds trust through understanding.

2. Identify and address mokitas. Mokita is a Papua New Guinean term for something that everyone knows but no one talks about. Papua New Guineans measure the health of their tribes by how many mokitas they have. The fewer mokitas, the healthier the tribe. When mokitas are present, it's also likely that truths are being withheld and problems that we're conscious of are being left unaddressed. Learn how to address mokitas head-on and speak candidly about unresolved issues in a way that will strengthen the health of your relationships and your organization's culture.

3. Identify your most valuable currency. When we keep our minds (and hearts) focused on our relationships with those around us, we can let go of the excuses and stories we tell ourselves about needing to withhold information, tell lies, or make our organizations "opaque." When relationships are the central currency within your company, it has the power to completely transform the culture and establish a new one based first and foremost on trust.

The truth is that we can handle the truth. And the success of our cultures, our relationships, and our organizations depends on our willingness to share our own truth with the people in our lives.

It's important for leaders to be transparent with their teams when it comes to finances, emotions, and intentions. Read more on the problem and its solutions in our eBook Fierce Insight into 6 Leading Problems Businesses Face Today—and How to Solve Them. 

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