“What do you think?” “Be honest about how you really feel.” “What’s really going on?” “Let’s get real.” Sounds easy to open up, right?
In reality, telling someone how you really feel can be difficult—especially at work. Offering up a new idea can feel scary. Sometimes being really open and honest about things means the other side of the conversation will be open too. What if a coworker or manager returns by saying things that are difficult for me to hear?
Even though “being open” can sometimes be difficult up front, it can also help us start to learn from mistakes and begin to grow. Being open and embracing a transparent company culture can be valuable for setting the standard of honesty and openness at your workplace.
Here are 5 tips to bring transparency to your culture:
1. Create a value that encourages people to be open. Outlining values is a great way to be very direct about how employees are expected to behave. When your company culture embraces a value like “be open,” it must happen throughout the company. From the CEO to managers to team leads to every single employee working in the trenches. Everyone has to be willing to be open, which means that sometimes we’ll feel like we still have a lot of work to do to get where we want to be. In fact, being open allows all of us to be our best selves and not hold back, and a culture of transparency tells employees that’s what you want from them.
2. Be willing to be vulnerable. Every single employee comes from different backgrounds and experiences. Every time a new employee comes on board, they make you see your company with a fresh perspective that brings value. Sometimes it takes great effort for someone—especially new—to voice an idea. Of course leaders should be open to different ideas. Even if we don’t use all the great ideas that come from employees taking a chance, we need to be open to it (especially if an employee’s idea is better than yours!) and let people know we appreciate them bringing the idea to the surface.
3. Have an open-door policy. Do employees know they can come to you? If so, do they do it? Do they open up when problems arise? If you don’t hear about problems, then your door isn’t open wide enough. Give your people a reason to trust you by doing some of the following: When you are wrong, do you admit it? People catch on pretty quickly how genuine you are and know if you admit to being wrong (and human). In addition, do you give them a reason to open up to you or come to you? Do you care about them and their feelings? Show it by helping them work through a problem or thoughtfully considering how you can help in an area where an employee may be struggling.
4. Make your own actions transparent. If you’ve ever felt you needed to hide something from an employee or coworker, then you may need to re-think what you chose. Remember, often you’re demonstrating the behaviors you want to see in your employees, which trickles through the culture. If you can’t stand behind your actions and feel okay with them, then you can’t expect the same from your employees. None of us is perfect. We’re all trying to do better every single day. Just remember, there may come a time when an employee needs a mentor and role-model. Make sure the example you set is one you’d feel comfortable with employees following. And in the future, when you’re deciding how to handle a situation, ask yourself if you’re okay with every employee knowing how you did it. And to go even further, share what you did. Then evaluate how that went with others!
5. Just be real. The reality is that your people want to know that you’re going to cut through all that business mumbo jumbo and talk to them like they’re real people. Communicate often and openly about what’s going on. Even about the inner workings of your company. Your people care about this stuff. Let them in on what’s really going on. Most of the time, they’ll be grateful you trusted them enough to communicate it to them and will trust you even more in the future, making their commitment every greater. Your people don’t want to be surprised or be given only bits of pieces about what’s really going on. That just gets the rumor mill going (and we all know what that does for employee productivity )! Really, what it comes down to is being open and encouraging others to be honest with you. And listen when they do!
“We are all living during a time when people want and expect their leaders to be more human, less perfect and at times a bit vulnerable – regardless of hierarchy or rank.”
—Glenn Llopis, Forbes
Of course being transparent at the most basic level is just communicating with each other often. Sometimes it’s from the CEO to every employee in the company, sometimes it’s with managers and their team members, sometimes it’s from department to department. Don’t assume people know what you mean or what you want them to do. Give them a chance to succeed—and you’ll have a better chance as well! And remember, when problems arise, there’s no better way to start off a conversation than being open and saying, “I think maybe I wasn’t as open as I should have been.”
Have you created company values to help promote a great culture at your company? “Be open” is one of our company values at BambooHR. This is the first in a blog series designed to explore different company values, see if they may be right for your company and how you can apply them in your workplace as well.