How Should Managers Be Practicing Transparency?

Trust starts with being transparent
Trust starts with being transparent
Image Credit: Chechi Peinado

The goal of every manager is to become a respected manager. This is a fine goal to have, but just exactly how can we make this happen? It turns out that one important step in getting your team to respect you is for you to make the practice of transparency important. Why should you bother with this? Well, give some thought to doing the opposite thing. Think about the last time you caught someone in the act of not being transparent. Since then has your trust in that person ever fully recovered? Clearly transparency is something that we need to work on as managers. How can we do this?

Make Sure That You Share Information

As managers, sometimes we learn something that we think that we should not share with others. We may be tempted to horde it. Don’t do this. If you are hording information you may think that you are retaining power but all that power dissipates when the hoarding behavior is discovered, resulting in deep distrust of you by your team. Hording damages creativity, both on the team that could have used the withheld information, and for the hoarder, who is essentially working in a vacuum.

Let’s face it — it takes work to share information and communicate what it means. However, as a manager this is a necessary skill. The good news for managers is that putting the effort into sharing information, with proper context and framing, will pay dividends via a more engaged, solution-oriented team.

Let’s be realistic here — sometimes there is truly sensitive information that you can’t share as a manager because of the damage it would cause. The good news is that these situations are rare.

Tell Everyone How Things Are Really Going

I can tell you from experience that at different points in my career I have seen my manager sugarcoat where the business really stood when it was actually in a bad place. I’ve also seen managers do the opposite and suppress good news when they didn’t want team members to get complacent.

Managers need to realize that the people on their teams are not dumb. There are plenty of everyday signs as to what a business’s health is. Stories that paint an opposite picture will immediately stand out and you’ll get called out as a dishonest manager. In these situations there’s only one way forward. Speak the truth, deal with reality as a team and provide hope.

Tell People Why You Made The Decision That You Did

A big part of be job of being a manager is making decisions. Not all of the decisions that we make are going to be popular decisions. When you make a decision, you need to be willing to reveal to your team why you made it. Don’t hem and haw, don’t worry about hurting feelings, and don’t hide your underlying motivations–those motivations have a way of eventually showing themselves to everyone.

We need to keep in mind that we can’t assume that we can just make decisions in a vacuum without giving context and reasoning for them. Our goal has to be to bring the organization along with us to execute and improve the quality of the decisions that we are making.

Be Willing To Tell Team Members Where They Stand

Managers have to be able to speak frankly with the members of their team. Let’s face it, it’s never easy to tell someone something they won’t enjoy hearing. However, this is a core responsibility as a manager; you owe them the truth and they’ll be better off for knowing the truth over the long run. Yes, it might sting in the moment, but if you communicate the message with respect and dignity, the recipient will be appreciative later in their life, even if they never show it to you.

Understand That Hidden Agendas Don’t Stay That Way

I can only speak for myself, but I don’t always like to show all of my cards to everyone. I like to keep some things to myself. However, it turns out that hidden agendas may be the easiest lack of transparency to spot because the untruthful party still has to take action and engage in certain behaviors to progress their real agenda. Guess what — people tend to see through such false behaviors. Managers need to realize that when their intentions aren’t pure, they’re so much easier to spot by team members than when they’re honest.

What All Of This Means For You

Being a good manager is all about getting the respect of your team. In order to make this happen you have to give them something first. What your team wants from you is transparency – they want to know what you are thinking and why you are thinking it. Transparency is a good thing to show to your team, but do you know how to go about doing it?

The key to transparency is for a manager to become good at sharing information with their team. Likewise, managers have to be willing to let the members of their team know how things are really going. Trying to hide this will never work out. Managers make a lot of decisions. We need to tell our teams why we have made the decisions that we’ve made. We have to be frank with the members of our team and let them know where they stand. We also have to resist the temptation to hide parts of our agenda from our team. These things never stay hidden for long.

Transparency is not a single thing that a manager does. Rather, transparency is as set of actions that a manager can take to make sure that information is truly being shared in the organization. If you are willing to work at becoming more transparent with your team, then you will have the ability to win the respect of your team.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If you have something that you cannot share with your team, should you let them know that?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If we were to list out all of the important manager skills that a manager needs to have, what would be on that list? Even more importantly, what would be at the top of that list? It turns out that what should be at the top of the list is the ability to make decisions well. Research has shown that how we go about making decisions is just as important as what decisions we make. If we want to make decisions the right way and we don’t have any manager training on how to do this, how can we go about doing this?