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Unlocking the Benefits of Transparency

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

You're not afraid of a little sunlight, are you?

An increasing number of companies and employees across the world are warming to the idea of transparency and embracing the benefits that come along with it.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the openness of transparency often provides a stronger sense of security for employees.

In their Harvard Business Review Article, Why Radical Transparency Is Good Business, Ryan Smith and Golnaz Tabibnia explain:

"Insights from neuroscience underscore that our brains work best when we no longer feel the need to hide, cover up our mistakes, or dwell on errors. We do better when we aren’t mentally bogged down in 'threat response' worrying about which of our colleagues is the boss’ 'flavor of the month,' getting a hasty promotion, or badmouthing our work."

For Employees

Transparency makes it easier to reduce focus on office politics, and let the work speak for itself.

Qualtrics embraces internal transparency by making employee performance data available to the entire team. Having insights regarding both the most and least successful projects available provides the team with examples to mimic, and examples to learn from.

This can be an incredibly valuable tool to help improve overall effectiveness, and avoid making the same mistakes more than once.

For the Public

Transparency inspires trust by showing that a company has nothing to hide. Better yet, many of these open organizations have some incredibly valuable insights to share.

Buffer has famously taken a 'Default to Transparency' stance, sharing everything from their revenue numbers, to strategic successes and failures with the public. If you're curious about what's going on at Buffer, you can take a look at their blog, where they share all these insights.

For many organizations, implementing openness at the level of Qualtrics or Buffer might be a difficult pill to swallow all at once.

A number of leaders are apprehensive about transparency, holding the assumption that lifting the veil on their operation would open Pandora's Box. Some employees fear that radical transparency around job performance has the potential to resemble Orwell's 1984, without proper oversight.

With that in mind, you might find it easier to introduce transparency incrementally.

Some Easy First Steps

You don't have to dive in headfirst to experience transparency's benefits. It's easy enough to get started with just a few useful, yet non-invasive practices:

Share Success

If you're not ready to share everything, start with sharing success. Sharing success amongst your colleagues is a powerful motivator, and inspires camaraderie.

Model this behavior yourself by regularly recognizing and celebrating the contributions your team makes on a daily basis.

Share Goals and Progress

Setting effective, measurable, and attainable goals is a crucial skill for any employee. Sharing those goals openly amongst the team helps everyone maintain a good understanding of where each project sits.

Share Challenges

How often have you faced a big challenge that was easier to solve alone? Sharing the challenges you face with your colleagues can give them an opportunity to offer creative solutions you may not have anticipated.

Transparency doesn't have to be radical to be useful. You can still benefit from taking a few steps at a time. Once you take those steps, you may realize that stepping out into the light is a great way to grow.

Originally published on May 13, 2015 → Last updated April 1, 2019

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George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.


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