Here’s an under-rated leadership skill – transparency. Transparency is the art of sharing information, or telling someone what you’re really thinking. As a leader, your people are looking for you to be honest and forthright… in fact, they expect it. How’s that for high standards? From the very moment you assume a leadership position, you’re expected to be perfect in the communications department. Not an easy challenge, for sure.
Let’s start with sharing information. You’ve probably heard this phrase – “tell ‘em what you know, when you know it”. Good advice when leading any change initiative, or when some big stuff is going down in the company. If you’re leading a reorganization, merger, acquisition, or downsizing, or when there’s some hot news in the organization, try to be transparent. Set up a regular schedule and consistent channels of sharing information. Tell ‘em what you know, when you know it. Make it a habit, and you’ll earn the reputation as someone who can be trusted.
The second opportunity for you to be transparent is more of an everyday thing. Basically, you can go a long way by simply seeking and telling the truth. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, or share how you’re feeling with your peers and direct reports – even your boss. If you think someone’s not being straight about something, simply ask them. If you feel that you’ve gotten sideways with a peer, put in on the table and talk about it. If you don’t understand where you boss is coming from, ask for clarification. Too often I see leaders who are struggling with something, and all they have to go on is their version of the events. They haven’t taken the most basic, human step – just talking with other people about what’s going on! If you’re confused about something, go get answers. Don’t speculate, complain or live in a constant state of uncertainty. Just say: “I’m not feeling very good about this – can we talk about it?” This cuts both ways, of course… you to direct reports, peers or your boss, and others with you. Be the kind of leader who’s always accessible to sit down and have a conversation. Be transparent – tell others what they want to know, or what you’re feeling. In the end, it’s the best way to go through your day, and it’s certainly the best way to build your reputation as a trusted leader.