Does Your Staff Feel Safe To Tell You The Truth?

written by   Nwando Eze   |   Management
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Many leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners struggle with keeping track of what’s really going on in their organization. As a result, they very easily become disconnected from their teams. Their frontline workers face operational challenges that are not being adequately addressed by leadership because of this disconnect. This can lead to decreased productivity and wasted resources due to misalignment and burnout. Organizations that value transparency are less likely to face this challenge. Many large organizations, think Enron, are no more because its leaders did not prioritize a culture of transparency. Here are three ways leaders can encourage transparency in their organizations.

1) Encourage, even reward honesty and transparency:

One of the best ways to shift a culture is to reward your teams for desired behavior. When your direct reports are honest about challenges, especially those that don’t make them look good, reward this behavior. Show them you value their honesty by acknowledging them in private and in front of others when they display this behavior. Ray Dalio, the author of Principles and founder of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world managing more than $160 billion in assets, shares about how he built such a successful company by investing in a culture of radical transparency. In Bridgewater meetings, team members are free to evaluate and critique the behavior of each other, even their superiors. According to Bridgewater “Our competitive edge is our pioneering workplace culture that relies on truthful and transparent communication to ensure the best ideas win out. We believe meaningful work and meaningful relationships emerge when you assemble high-performing teams and push them to engage in rigorous and thoughtful inquiry.” This honesty is the foundation of an “idea meritocracy” where all thoughts are put on the table, thoughtful disagreements are had and once decided the team abides by what is agreed upon. Such behavior is encouraged since it sets the foundation of a culture where truth, good or bad, is always in plain sight, decreasing the chances of brewing a toxic culture.

2) Show the consequences for not being transparent:

Have low tolerance for non-transparent behavior. Make it apparent to the team this is not acceptable. Support psychological safety in meetings. Before my meetings I review our mission, vision and core values. I state that this meeting is a safe place to share ideas. Opinions might differ but should be shared none the less. If team members get passionate in meetings and shut others down, take back control of the meeting and remind everyone this is a safe space to share ideas. When your teams see that you place a priority on transparency , even in tough situations, they will feel more comfortable practicing honesty and transparency.

3) Lead by example:

Team members will listen to what you say but what you do is what really matters. A core value of true leadership is honesty and transparency, especially in the most difficult times. Make it a point to be honest in all your dealings. Even if your truth doesn’t paint you in a good light. Your teams will respect your honesty. They will model this behavior and encourage it among their teams.

Triple C Action Points

1) Reward honesty and transparency:

Be vigilant. During meetings, when a team member is honest and vulnerable, take a moment and acknowledge their courage for being the voice of an unpopular idea.

2) Lead by example:

When circumstances arise that require transparency, lead by example. Be transparent. Your team will understand the value you place on it.
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Hi, I’m Nwando Eze a board-certified physician and Certified Physician Executive with a Masters in Public Health and Business Administration. An accomplished author and speaker, I’m passionate about nurturing early careerist into young leaders, coaching leaders into becoming the best, well-rounded versions of themselves, improving justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in leadership and helping leaders live a well- rounded life.

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