We all know that trust is the key to any successful relationship. There are many ways to build trust but I believe one of the most impactful ways is to be transparent. If you aren’t transparent, it will be much more difficult to create the kind of long lasting relationships you desire.
While transparency is important in all relationships, it’s the cornerstone of businesses who want to create a culture of happiness, engagement, high performance, and mutual respect. Employees in any organization have a deep desire to know what’s going on and why. They want to give input and be heard. They don’t want to be scared of the future and scared of change. But the only way to reduce fear and motivate them to be their best is to be transparent.
What is transparency in business? One business dictionary defines it as a “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.”
Simple enough concept to understand but how do you do it? Here are some ways to be more transparent as a leader, manager, and company:
Have a True Open Door Policy
It’s easy to say you have an open door but if you don’t have anyone walking into your office to ask hard questions, give you feedback, discuss strategy, or share concerns, your open door policy isn’t working. It’s difficult for employees to bring up issues so you have to do everything you can to make them feel comfortable doing so. Never get defensive, listen closely, ask questions, take action, follow up, and always say THANK YOU!!!! If your employees aren’t proactively coming to you, invite them in to talk. Ask easy questions at first. Say things like, “I get the feeling that there are a lot of people who aren’t speaking up about some of the issues we have here. I really need some insight so I can make things better. Can you tell me what you see?” You will probably get a softened truth as the person feels you out but this is how you start to build better relationships with your employees. If you handle yourself appropriately, take action, and be consistent, you will start to see people taking advantage of your open door policy and your organization becoming more transparent.
Get Out of Your Office
Don’t expect everyone to come to your office; take your open door policy to them. Walk around the facility and talk to employees…even those who report to other managers. Ask questions about their work, the issues they face, what they need in order to do their jobs better. Give them updates on what’s going on in your department. Share a customer story. Tell them about an issue you are dealing with and ask for their opinions. Even better, ask people to go for a walk. There is something magical about walking meetings and it’s a great way to share and learn information without the pressure of sitting in a cramped office, loud cubicle or cold conference room.
Talk (Truthfully) to Your Employees Often
At StoneAge, I hold regular Town Hall meetings to encourage questions and give my employees deeper organizational insight. A different department is scheduled each month. Every person within that department submits anonymous questions ahead of time and I answer them candidly during the meeting. Nothing is off limits. We also hold monthly company meetings where we share all major issues and wins. If a mistake is made, we publically talk about it. If we aren’t performing, we talk about it. We share financial information, give strategic updates, talk about changes we are going through, and initiatives we are planning. We are clear when something is confidential and must be kept that way; we show our employees that we trust them to use good judgement with the information provided. And we always answer questions from the floor.
Seek Organizational Feedback
There are lots of informal ways to get feedback from across the organization. All managers should be working with their teams to understand what’s going right and what’s going wrong. Whether it be one-on-one or in team meetings, you should always be asking for organizational feedback. I also recommend doing a formal, anonymous survey of employees. We recently did one at StoneAge and it was incredibly helpful. Sure, some of the feedback was painful but we were able to put together an action plan that addressed the issues brought up and our employees we incredibly grateful we asked their opinions.
Be Honest About Why People Leave
There is nothing that clouds transparency faster than misleading your employees about why someone is leaving the company. I have learned this lesson the hard way. There is a fine balance between protecting the privacy of a terminated or quitting employee and telling your employees the truth. Honesty is always the best policy. Assume they will find out the truth anyway. Plus, if you don’t tell the truth, they will make up their own stories about what happened…stories that are most likely far worse than what really went down. It may be hard for some employees to hear the truth but at least they know you are being honest and you reduce the chance that they will live in fear of “I am next.”
The only way to be transparent is to be vulnerable. Humans need to connect on a deeper level to build solid, high functioning relationships. It’s hard to connect with someone who you know very little about. I’m not saying you need to disclose your deepest, darkest fears but be willing to share some of yourself and always admit when you don’t have the answer or when you screw up. The better people know you, the more transparent you will be perceived to be.
To build a high performing organization, transparency is essential. It takes time to build trust so take it slow and be authentic. Be honest about your efforts to be more transparent. Ask your employees for feedback and to make a commitment to be more transparent themselves. Be forthright with information, keep your promises, and always tell the truth. It’s a worthy endeavor as employees who feel like they are in the loop and can voice their opinions are much more likely to be engaged, happy, and productive.
Thanks for reading! As always, I welcome comments, likes and shares. To receive my blog in your inbox, click here.
Honesty is the best policy. There is no doubt that Sir Edwin Sandys nailed it when he wrote this statement all those years ago. But let’s be honest, we all lie.
Sometimes we tell big lies; outright lies that are the opposite of the truth. Sometimes we tell softened truths; lies that temper the truth in an effort to minimize making another person feel badly. Sometimes we omit parts of the story…not really lying but not really telling the whole truth. And we justify all these little white lies by telling ourselves that we are doing it to protect the ones we are lying to. Or to make people feel better. Or that the little white lie you told to boost your image is harmless…stretching the truth doesn’t hurt anyone and it sure did make you feel a little better about yourself.
We tell lies like these everyday:
“Those pants don’t make you look fat!”
“For some reason you’re voicemail just came through; that’s why I’m just now calling you back.”
“The check is in the mail.”
“No, I don’t think you are abrasive. I don’t know why anyone would tell you that.”
“The trout I caught was a record breaker!”
Humans are wired to be a bit dishonest. At least that’s what Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and famed author has found in his numerous studies on honesty and cheating in context to human behavior. According to Dan, we all lie and cheat...just a little bit, or at least until our brains reward us for stopping ourselves from cheating or lying further. Sure, you just told a fib but you can pat yourself on the back for stopping at just one. By all means, you could have expanded upon the lie but that would be outright dishonest.
It’s easy to justify why it’s okay to tell a small lie. But here’s why you shouldn’t.
There isn’t a person out there (okay, maybe a few) who wouldn’t say that he or she values honesty and believe that it’s a top character trait. But we throw this value out the window when we tell little white lies. What’s more important: staying true to your values or telling that lie? What good are values if you don’t live by them?
Giving honest feedback is difficult to do but telling a little lie to avoid giving it is a cop out and a missed opportunity. Wouldn’t you rather know that those pants really aren’t that flattering? Or that people actually do see you as abrasive? Or that you need to make improvements at work? You’re not alone. We all need feedback so be kind, candid and smart in your timing, but don’t tell a lie to avoid giving feedback.
No one likes being lied to, period. You can tell yourself that you are lying to protect the other person, but the truth is, you’re still lying. Dishonesty breaks down trust in a relationship and without trust, there isn’t much of a relationship. Overtime, anger, resentment and suspicion may replace the positive feelings people had about you. Lying just isn’t worth it.
The Self-Justification Trap
If you’re like most people, telling lies will make you feel uncomfortable and uneasy (as it should). In efforts to ease these icky feelings, you may tell yourself a story. “I did the right thing by lying. The truth would have been far worse on her and therefore it’s justified. Besides, she really doesn’t want to hear the truth anyway.” This is the ‘self-justification trap’ and it basically means you are lying to yourself to make yourself feel better. Don’t let yourself off the hook; stop justifying your lies.
It’s Hard to Remember Lies
Telling the truth is always your best option. That way you don’t have to remember the lies you told. Sure, being honest in the moment may be difficult, but getting caught in a lie that you don’t remember telling will cause you to lose credibility.
Little Lies Can Turn into Big Lies
It’s easy for a seemingly harmless little lie to turn into a massive one when you have to tell more lies to support the first one. Just remember the story of Pinocchio.
Let’s face it, despite all the reasons not to, you will still lie. You won’t tell your spouse that “yes, in fact, you have gained a little bit of weight.” You will exaggerate your role in a situation. You will downplay your opinion of a coworker when he comes to ask for feedback. Little white lies will escape your lips…just like they will from everyone else’s. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt to minimize the lies you tell. Try your very best to always be authentic and honest. And when you do tell a lie, be aware of it and admit it to yourself. Self-deception is the worst kind of deception.
As always, thank you for reading. I welcome comments, likes and shares….just click on the buttons below. Please click here to sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox and have a wonderful day.
I once was told that taking things personally is one of the most selfish things a person could do.
This statement stuck with me and I found myself sharing it often. Not wanting to be a hypocrite (or selfish), I decided I had better start paying more attention to whether or not I regularly took things personally. To my dismay, I realized that I did…far more often than I wanted to admit. I also found that when I did, I felt bad about myself. I felt bad about other people. I felt bad about the situation. I felt bad about everything. Yuck.
After suffering a bit longer, I decided it was time to stop taking things so damn personally. Here’s what I did….
When my husband made a wisecrack at my expense, I took it as teasing (and actually laughed with him) rather than as him trying to make a point. When a coworker didn’t smile back at me, I told myself he must be having a bad day rather than that he must not like me. When a friend called to cancel happy hour, I believed her reason of being too busy with work rather than feel sorry for myself because she had more important things to do. When my boss gave me feedback on my argumentative communication style, I told myself how lucky I was to have someone who cared enough to help me see how my actions were impacting others rather than get upset with him for not taking my side. When someone didn’t like my idea, I didn’t get my feelings hurt; I told myself I needed to vet my idea more thoroughly and work on my delivery rather than that my teammates were being dismissive because they think I’m stupid.
You know what happened? My life dramatically improved. Every time I put a positive spin on my perception of a situation or conversation, I relaxed. I also found it much easier to be accountable for my actions. I became more open to hearing and considering different opinions. I became less attached to my own ideas. It was easier for people to talk to me and give me feedback. I was happier. I think I even became more likeable. I know I liked myself a whole lot better.
I would like to encourage you, too, to stop taking things so personally. You will not only improve your life, you will improve the lives of everyone around you. You will be happier. And you being happier makes the world happier. And we all know that the world could use more happiness.
Here are five things you can do to stop taking everything personally:
1. Don’t make other people’s rudeness, grumpiness, curtness, etc. about you. It’s about whatever is going on with them. Smile, internally wish them well, and move on.
2. Consider all feedback constructive. The more you get the better you will be, even if the feedback doesn't feel valid. Make modifications and apologize when necessary. But don’t take any of it personally; instead be grateful for it.
3. Don’t expect people to read your mind. If you do, you’ll regularly find yourself disappointed. Face it, most of us aren’t psychic so there is no point in expecting others to know what going on inside of you. Always be honest about how you feel and what you are thinking. Candidness matters.
4. Don’t make assumptions. You don’t really know what other people are thinking or feeling so don’t assume. Plus, incorrect assumptions cause undue suffering. If you don’t know, ask. Even if you think you know, ask. Seek to understand.
5. Tell yourself a different story. Each of us view the world through our individual lens. We all have deeply rooted biases and personality types that influence the color, texture, and feel of that lens. Our lenses are shaped by our parents, family, friends, and communities, and by our experiences. How each of us sees the world is very personal and very different. And that’s what makes the human species so amazing. But it’s also our biggest downfall. We fall in to the trap of thinking that our thoughts and feelings are THE TRUTH. “I am right and they are wrong.” Even people who are highly self-aware find it difficult to break outside of their own way of thinking. None of us really know THE TRUTH. We really only feel and see our own truths (which may be flat out wrong). So if you are taking something personally, recognize that the story you are telling yourself is just that: a story and there’s a good chance it’s wrong. Why not tell a different story? One that doesn’t involve turning angels into demons.
Not taking things personally takes effort and persistence but it’s worth it. You’ll be much happier and feel better about yourself when you able to let things easily slide off your back. You’ll be more open-minded and better able to take feedback when you let other people have their own opinions without becoming defensive or protective. Life is better when you turn your story from a negative one to a positive one.
As always, thanks for reading! Please feel free to share, like, and comment if you are so inspired. Please click here to sign up to have my blogs sent directly to your inbox. Just scroll to the bottom of my homepage.
People are filled with all kinds of biases; we are hard wired to have them. We tend to see and feel our own points of view strongly and we are particularly one-sided. We seek out information to preserve our opinions and beliefs which cause us to interpret situations, problems, conversations, non-verbal cues, etc. through the lens of our biases. And many times, these preconceptions cause us to be irrational, especially when our emotions are involved. Unfortunately, we don’t understand that bias drives everything we do therefore we don’t challenge the rationality behind our thoughts and feelings. We get stuck in the mindset of “because I thought it, it must be true.”
There are dozens of cognitive biases; here’s a list of them and to be honest, it’s overwhelming to read. I like to think of myself as a fairly rational person and after WikiLists enlightened me, I could see all kinds of ways my brain plays tricks on me. Bummer.
I strongly desire to make sound, rational decisions and I am sure you do, too.
So what are some ways to overcome biases? Here are some tactics I’ve been trying and they are proving to be helpful albeit difficult. Your brain is powerful, fast, and excellent at fooling you into thinking it knows best, even when it doesn’t.
When I find myself getting upset, complaining or judging, I stop and challenge myself to come up with three alternatives stories besides the one I am telling myself. For example, someone snaps at you in a meeting and you tell yourself that she did it on purpose to embarrass you…to put you in your place. Alternative stories: 1) she was up all night with her three year old and is tired and at her wits end from lack of sleep; 2) she is feeling the stress of a tight deadline and her boss just added more to her plate so she is frustrated but it has nothing to do with you; 3) three people were late for the meeting; she is upset that we waited for them and she is frustrated with the whole meeting. The purpose of doing this exercise is to help your brain see that there are dozens of possibilities as to why something happened. Rather than jump to a conclusion, don’t take it personally, ask questions, and pursue understanding.
Seek Different Perspectives
As the Polish proverb tells us, “two minds are better than one” and in the case of overcoming biases, this is absolutely true. Asking for perspective can help you see what might be hiding in a blind spot. Having trouble with your boss? Ask a few co-workers what they see and ask how they’ve developed a better relationship with him (just be sure you don’t turn it into a compliant session). Feel passionate about an idea? Share it with others and ask them what you are missing (just be sure you don’t get sucked into group think). Different points of view will help you deepen your understanding and recognize when you are creating an incomplete picture of a situation or idea.
Solve Problems as a Team
Often times, decisions are made quickly without understanding the unintended consequences. This is especially true for people like me where optimism bias runs deep. Therefore it’s best to sit down with a group of people and start asking questions. Here are three that can kick start the process: 1) Why are we doing it this way? 2) What if we did it a different way? 3) What would these different ways look like? Identify the options, list the pros and cons of each, and make sure that everyone voices their opinion. Remember, this is a process so treat it like one and try to keep the emotion out of it. The goal is to challenge yourself and team to overcome biases and make sound decisions, not create winners and losers.
Search for Counter Evidence
Another highly effective way to reduce bias is to actively seek out counter evidence. Counter evidence is information that is opposite of what you believe or think. Humans are experts in confirmation bias (the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions) and you have to actively work to avoid this trap. Luckily we have Google so you have all kinds of opinions, news, and theories at your fingertips, making it easy to find counter evidence. You should also have candid discussions with those who think differently than you; just remember the point is to be curious, not defend your viewpoint or change minds so go into this exercise open-mined.
Play Devil’s Advocate
Playing devil’s advocate means you purposefully raise an objection or take an opposing viewpoint for the sake of challenging biases. You don’t have to believe what you are saying; you are only debating in order to explore other possibilities. Playing this role is not easy nor is it fun but it is necessary in order to ensure good decision making. Practice doing it on your own ideas and then take it into team settings; many people find it off-putting and it takes finesse to effectively challenge others’ ideas without making them feel like they have to defend their viewpoints.
Bias is part of everything we think and do as humans. We believe we have control of our thoughts and feelings but in reality, these hard-wired tendencies manipulate us into making irrational and erroneous decisions. As behavioral economist Dan Ariely states, "We usually think of ourselves as sitting the driver's seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we made and the direction our life takes; but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires—with how we want to view ourselves—than with reality." While you’ll never be able to rid yourself of bias, self-awareness is key. The more you understand yourself and where your thoughts and feelings come from, the more you will understand why you do the things you do. In turn, challenging these thoughts and beliefs can provide deeper insight and create opportunities to make better decisions.
As always, thank you for reading! Please comment, like and share if you are so inclined; I greatly appreciate it. To receive my blogs in your inbox, please click here and scroll to the bottom of my home page to add your email address.
P.S. If you want to read a life changing book on this subject check out “Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World” by Al Pittampalli. It changed my life.
The idea of permanency is comforting but false. There is nothing that exists today that is truly permanent. No person, species, system, technology, company, job, building, highway…nothing.
Nothing is permanent.
So why are we caught up in believing that so many things are?
Because we tell ourselves that they are.
Unfortunate things can happen when you are attached to permanency. Wanting things to stay as they are creates a strong resistance to change. It makes you defensive and territorial. It causes you to dig in your heels, argue your viewpoints, and overlook or minimize growth opportunities. Another form of attachment to permanency…believing that things will never change…compels you to stay in an unhealthy relationship, remain in a job you dislike, excuse yourself from taking action, and generally creates complacency. Hanging on for dear life to a thought, a situation, or a person constrains your potential. It impedes your growth. Even when those thoughts, situations and people are positive. As French author François de la Rochefoucauld said so accurately and eloquently, “The only constant in life is change.” No matter the situation, it will change, for better or worse. How you handle the change will dictate how you move through it (see my blog post on choosing your attitude here for some encouragement).
The sooner you let go of (ok, reduce…that’s more realistic) your attachment to permanency (otherwise known as being resistant to change), the sooner you can see any situation for what it truly is (changeable and ever-changing) and be able to better go with the flow, accept change, and make things happen.
So what can you do? Please note, I am not an expert, psychologist, or psychiatrist. These are things that help me when I find myself being certain of permanency and resisting or getting caught off guard by change. By no means do I think my techniques work for everyone but I’d like to share just in case a few of them can help you.
None of this work is easy nor is it comfortable. But the truth of any situation is that it is not permanent and it will always change. The goal isn’t to hopelessly give in when you feel that the right thing to do is resist or give up when you think something shouldn’t change. It’s about being able to recognize that attachment to permanency can lead to stress and unhappiness. Rather than let it take you down an unhealthy path, frame your thoughts and feelings from a place of wanting to be part of a solution and finding a positive outcome. Sometimes that means letting go, sometimes that means finding a different way. But always it means that it will change.
I’ll leave you with this quote from author, Ursula K. Le Guin, as food for thought: “The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”
Thank you for reading,
Please feel free to comment, like, and share. It’s always appreciated.
Those who know me well have heard me say this many times. It doesn't really matter how you THINK you're perceived. What matters more is how you are ACTUALLY perceived.
Leadership is about trying to breakdown these "perception barriers" so you can connect better with those you lead. And by breaking barriers down I don't mean convincing people their perceptions are wrong. They very well may be true! It's about looking yourself through others' eyes, being honest about the validity of their perceptions, and adjusting your style through positive action to show that it's either misguided or something you need to shift within yourself.
Here is a perception I have of myself: I am a caring, compassionate human who connects with and appreciates people. I am open and am willing to change my mind. I like getting to know people to understand what motivates them. Yes, I am driven and have a powerful personality but that doesn't mean that I am unapproachable. I see myself as really LISTENING to people...most of the time.
But the reality is that some see me as intimidating and hard to talk to. Some think that I don't listen. That I can overwhelm with my personality and that it's hard to win an argument with me. I have the power to hire and fire. And some people avoid talking to me at all costs.
So which perception is true? Well, both. Just because I see myself as open minded and easy to talk to doesn't mean that I am to everyone I lead. To be honest, I am all of the things I listed above. My strong leadership style HAS shut down people before and I am painfully aware of the times when I unintentionally alienated people in my drive to proceed and achieve. But it has also connected deeply with many people who look to me for guidance and friendship. My goal is to embrace the feedback that I get, whether I think it's accurate or not, and address it with curiosity and a genuine desire to connect with people on a deeper level. And that's what leadership is all about...breaking down the barriers of perception.
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.