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Transparency Is Such a Lonely Word... and Mostly What I Need From You

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I love that old Billy Joel Song "Honesty" and in business that is a must have. If you discover a colleague who has been shall we say, less than honest, it can be challenging to build trust and you often must have the courage to confront this head on or make another tough choice and not speak up.

The sister to honesty, in my opinion, is transparency. Your employees want to be in the know, especially on the big stuff. When they are not in the know they feel like that kid in high school who was thrown out of the locker room pre-game (ouch!) and who then has to get out on the field not knowing the plays and rules of the game (double ouch!)

Many leaders cut many corners on the transparency front. By telling one or two key people some important news, they convince themselves that they have shared enough. Of course, it's often the same two people who helped them brainstorm about the decision to begin with, or who are already discussing the next move. The result is that when other team members hear from the enviable two that a decision was made or that there was a shift in game plan, their employee morale currency starts declining. Perhaps is goes without saying that you could lose a few superstars if this is a consistent pattern.

But fear not! If you have been a regular reader of my column, you may have guessed that there is another way, three ways as a matter of fact. Here are my tips on three ways to keep your culture healthy, your team happy and everybody in the know:

1] Before you make and/or announce a big decision, grab someone with a lot of emotional EQ- to predict who and how this decision will directly impact others. Look at the decision from all sides and then create your action plan. Often leaders are so pleased they made a decision that they don't realize the amount of glass that will need to be swept up behind them as they are on to their next brilliant decision (or in startup mode - a pivot). Think how you can create WIN/WIN with your team and have an understanding of what motivates others. People do take things very personally, and while they might go along with it they might also be open to the next time a recruiter calls . People will be incredibly loyal if they feel you care and are a transparent leader. They can handle the good always and the bad often, as long as their best interests were kept in mind and an action plan they can follow or help build is put in front of them.

2] When the bigh decision is made, share it promptly, with as much detail as possible. Call the group together, explain the decision and share the thinking that went behind it. If you are still open to feedback (and frankly you always should be), encourage it. If your company is large, a teleconference and/or webcast can work well. A heartfelt and candid company email can also go a long way, but be aware that employees can forward it to others in and outside the company. If the decision impacts a key employee directly, give him or her the courtesy of learning it first, privately and before you meet with the larger group.

3] Don't hide out. Do you really want to be like an ostrich at the zoo with your head buried in the sand while everyone is watching through a glass window. They know. Make eye contact and speak the truth. Spell out the benefits of the decision you have made or are thinking of making. Trust me, this matters 100 x more to your team that an employee of the month program or an extra day off!

I may be dating myself here, but in the classic TV sitcom Welcome Back Kotter there was a famous line: "When you assume you make an ass out of you and me (ass-u-me)." (Not sure if that episode won an Emmy for writing or not.) Don't assume your team already knows when something is up. Also don't assume they can't handle and respect your hard decisions as a leader, especially if you bring them into the inner fold when the time is right and before the news leaks, which it might. Encourage a transparent culture with your team leaders and if you don't want anyone to know anything, then only tell your dog or therapist.

But when I want transparency
tell me where else can I turn.
Because you're the one that we depend upon.

NOTE TO EMPLOYEES. If you are not the leader or not in the know, I have a challenge for you as well. In one word... ASK! You want transparency from your leaders, we all do. But if you are not getting it... instead of getting mad or feeling victimized, why not simply ask your leader to share with you what's going on. It usually works and is often appreciated! Be helpful and give your leader the benefit of the doubt. Every leader is not perfect 100% of the time. They are not mind readers. They make mistakes. You need key info, ask for what you need and encourage them to share with others. If your leader truly doesn't care what people think- check out www.barrelofjobs.com we might have a great new opportunity for you or someone who you know and are trying to help.

Julie Kantor is Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer for Barrel of Jobs a job croudsourcing startup that is putting America back to work. She writes weekly for Huffington Post on jobs, culture, startups and more.