The role of a leader isn’t simply to drive profit and give orders to subordinates. A strong leader can inspire enthusiasm and loyalty in their teams, driving passion for the company’s product or service.
However, this inspiration can rarely grow in the dark; rather, a leader must make a point of working and communicating with transparency. To help, the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share 15 concrete steps you can take to become a more transparent leader.
1. Get to know your staff as individuals.
Get to know your staff. Talk to them. Learn about their needs and desires regarding their careers. These are the individuals who are working hard every day to make your company successful. If they feel connected to you, they will usually feel like you are a transparent leader. – Karen Barbee, Renaissance Wellness Services, LLC
2. Share video messages.
During this time of remote work, I’ve added regular “Happy Friday” videos to my communication routine. Seeing my face and hearing my voice with an update on the week and specifics about what is happening has kept the team connected. It has helped to reinforce stability and consistency in a world that has been lacking both this last year. – Jon Schram, The Purple Guys
3. Create a safe space for sharing.
It’s important to create a safe space for employees to share about themselves. I like to share with my team, too, about the coaching and leadership development I’m doing. It’s a way to foster a culture of constant growth and vulnerability. – Jenn Kenning, Align Impact
4. Seek your team’s help with reaching specific goals.
Share your goals and your progress toward them. Succinctly and directly describe the information or help that you seek, and ask if the team can assist. Make sure your team members understand how they connect to your goals. This not only improves transparency but also makes a more direct connection between you and your team. – Matthew Johnston, Design Interactive Inc.
5. Discuss both business issues and personal milestones in regular meetings.
Within our monthly meetings, we very candidly discuss the health of the business. If there are problems, we talk about them during these meetings because it takes everyone to contribute. In these monthly meetings we also feature employee awards, new clients, birthdays and work anniversaries. Additionally, we hold quarterly meetings — we call these vision meetings, and they’re in a Q&A style. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group
6. Hold a debriefing session after major projects.
Gather input from all participants. Celebrate the successes and commit to making changes, if warranted, in the future. I feel that by doing this we all have the closure we need and are ready to tackle the next project that comes along. – Jim Lane, Lane Technology Solutions
7. Admit it when you fail.
From the outside, many corporate leaders seem as if they can do no wrong. Bring in the human emotion. The experience of sharing failure opens the connection between leadership and staff and encourages everyone to always strive for the best, knowing things may not always go to plan. People always see (or assume) success; they rarely get to know about what didn’t go according to plan. – Joseph Princz, Wrecking Ball
8. Share the whole truth.
Some senior management staff can’t seem to let go of the thought that star team members bail at the first indication of trouble. They are wrong. Do you know who actually bails on a struggling company? Star performers who feel misled, lied to or powerless to know what is really going on. Good leaders understand that. – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales
9. Let people know who you really are.
There is a lot of talk about being vulnerable, which I translate to people really knowing who you are as a leader. Too often in business, we try to project an image of something we are not — or aren’t yet — and it comes across as either inauthentic or intimidating. If you are open with your employees on what challenges you and the company are facing, they will return the favor in kind. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology
10. Share the projects you’re working on.
I and all my team members share all of our projects via a shared document. We all know what each person is accountable for and what projects they’re working on. We are working partly remotely and partly in the office, so we have a 9 a.m. Zoom meeting each weekday. We go down our list of what we are working on to keep everybody in the loop on progress. – Jean-Paul Gedeon, JPG MEDIA
11. Respect your team’s competency and capabilities.
Sharing goals, progress and results with your team will allow them to better support the business’s success. Communication on how projects are progressing, whether verbal or through reports and a dashboard, lets the team know you trust them to move the business forward. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting
12. Encourage cross-departmental meetings.
Invite team members from different departments to sit in on one another’s meetings. It showcases what everyone is working on and how their work plays a role in overall company goals. It also alleviates doubts about each other’s competency and shows support for different departments. This kind of interactivity not only creates camaraderie between silos but also eliminates companywide rumors and gossip. – Jeffrey Bartel, Hamptons Group, LLC
13. Discuss yearly or quarterly goals, then report on progress.
Transparency in sharing upfront goals for the year or quarter and reporting back on progress at the end of the timeline shows that the executive team is accountable. Further, it encourages employees to adopt that same behavior. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
14. Never sugarcoat the state of the company.
A step to becoming a more transparent leader is to not have secrets and to not sugarcoat the state of the organization. Keeping your employees informed and aware of your company’s situation will allow them to be well-prepared and not surprised by situations. This will make them more likely to be helpful problem-solvers. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting
15. Share your calendars.
This may seem trivial, but my entire team shares all the details of their calendars with the entire team. We share when we are working out, going to the dentist or getting a manicure — it’s important for my team to see me as a real human and to see each other as spouses, friends and mothers. I expect my team to take care of themselves, and I lead by example. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners