By SANDY CLARKE
It’s a curious thought that, in today’s workplace, there are many open working spaces where people can collaborate and converse with ease – but does the organisational leadership reflect the transparency?
Research into employee engagement has been fairly consistent over recent years. There are around three billion people in work throughout the world, and yet only about 40 per cent of those are engaged in their role.
In the past, the focus was on job security and stability, and hopefully some opportunities for career development. Now, people want to know that they’re part of an organisation where clarity, openness and honesty lead the way.
No longer is ‘The Great Man’ style of leadership in vogue. In fact, when we look at the handling of the 2008 global recession and preceding events, it became quite clear that leaders don’t always have the answers…and nor are they always open about the state of affairs.
Today, people resonate with leaders who are transparent. A leader who is open and engages in honest communication is someone people can trust and get behind. Not only do employees feel that they’re being treated with respect and valued as colleagues, it allows them to make decisions for their own future should an organisation need to make, for example, budget or staff cuts at any point.
The likelier response to transparent leadership is that employees repay their leader’s trust by giving their own trust and commitment in return. Throughout the years, I’ve known employees to leave well-performing organisations because they simply didn’t trust the leadership.
On the other hand, I’ve been impressed by employees who have committed to struggling start-ups and ailing businesses because they desire to give something back to a leader they respect. Often, these employees run extra miles for their leader and end up turning the company’s fortunes around.
It’s amazing how simple the idea of transparency in leadership is, and yet it appears like an underused and undervalued approach by those who believe that keeping a tight grip on business operations and how to communicate is the way forward.
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For those who learned to ride bicycles when we were younger, we learned a valuable lesson: the tighter you grip the handlebars, the more rigid you become. As a result, we inevitably fall off after losing control.
Transparent leadership is vital for any organisation to thrive. While it can sound like one of those luxuries leaders might get to someday when they have time, being a transparent leader who communicates openly with employees has several benefits. Here are four reasons to make transparency a key quality of your leadership:
1. It fosters trust and strengthens relationships
Think of friendships and associates to whom you’re most drawn. It’s likely that you’ll describe these people as ‘being themselves’ and feel comfortable in their presence. They don’t conceal much around you and, in turn, the trust they show allows you to open up to them. In leadership, we can benefit from the same dynamic.
Remember that – whatever the level – everyone in business is a human being. Effective leaders know that, to connect well with their team, transparency and honest communication is the fastest way to trust and establish strong connections.
2. It creates cohesion within teams
When leaders are sincere in creating a culture based on transparency and honest communication, several improvements occur within teams.
Firstly, people begin to feel more confident and comfortable in sharing their genuine thoughts and opinions of what they feel is going well and what improvements are needed.
Secondly, when employees feel respected by transparent leadership, they will invest more of themselves and pull together to deliver on goals and objectives.
Finally, cohesion is cemented simply due to the absence of miscommunication and misunderstandings that pop up frequently when people are unsure of expectations, where they stand, and where the organisation is headed. Transparency eliminates these unnecessary constraints.
3. Problems get resolved quickly
Often, leaders hold back when it comes to communication because they’d rather their employees not realise the pressure they’re under to deliver. This could be out of genuine concern (leaders don’t want to worry their team) or they might cringe at the idea of ‘losing face’.
Whatever the reason, the problem with closed-off communication is that leaders leave their people in the dark. On the other hand, when leaders include people as they face challenges, more often than not, issues get resolved quickly as team members offer their ideas or any help they can give to overcome challenges. As the saying goes, two (or ten) heads are better than one!
4. Team relationships form naturally
Team-building retreats and away-days can be wonderful experiences that help people within an organisation get to know each other – but nothing can substitute the depth of a relationship that grows organically.
When there’s no transparency in leadership, and when communication is cautious and careful, it has the toxic knock-on effect of closing people off to each other. This creates silos within organisations that manifests in the all-too-familiar situation of different departments feeling like different entities to each other, rather than being part of one family.
Sandy is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, and previously enjoyed 10 years as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK. He has been fortunate to gain valuable insights into what makes us tick, which has deepened his interests in leadership, emotions, mindfulness, and human behaviour.