Transparency has become a hot topic in the corporate world, and that’s a bit of a double-edged sword for organizational leaders. Real transparency that’s instituted and lived the right ways adds tremendous value to an organization’s brand. But for all too many organizations, transparency is little more than a hollow word. I called it “buzzword transparency.”
This type of transparency comes across as contrived—something an organization uses only for PR purposes. Or it’s only lived out part-time—something that’s used when it’s convenient when times are good, or as a stop-gap reaction to something bad. Or it provides information without any attempt to add real value and insights. At best, that type of transparency is incomplete. At worst, it’s destructive to your culture and devastating for your future.
Employees and potential employees are looking for something more. To hire and keep the best talent, today’s organizations have to understand the importance of a more meaningful type of transparency. So here are some ways I believe you can “embrace” the type of transparency that truly serves your brand:
Embrace the Glass House
We live and work in a world of glass houses. Everything we do stands bare in the windows of the digital age for anyone to see. Our words. Our strategies. Our actions. Our policies. Our products and services. The cultures we create. All of it. You can bury your head in the sand and ignore the reality. You can spend money, time and energy fighting against the reality. Or you can step into the future and embrace the reality. For most organizations, this is a shift of the mind and heart that begins at the top and needs to filter throughout all levels of leadership. It’s an awareness that we live in a hyper-connected, global culture that’s tethered by technology and heavily influenced by next-gen leaders. And it’s an understanding that people have very little tolerance for organizations that attempt to hide or explain away their bad practices or their problems. They simply won’t let you fake it.
Embrace Mass Accountability
Leaders no longer are accountable to just a select few people or groups of people. We face demands from shareholders, customers, board members, community leaders, employees, and all sorts of interest groups. They all represent congregations of people with shared values, beliefs, desires, and demands. Demands for more information, more disclosure, more influence. And demands for the organization to open itself up and operate outside the traditional shrouds of secrecy.
Whether we like it or not, we have a greater responsibility—and an unavoidable responsibility—to all of these congregations.
Embrace the Outcome of Trust
Organizations need to take proactive steps to operate with greater transparency, but with that comes the inevitable responsibility. Transparency doesn’t mean that everything about us and our organization becomes an open book. Transparency, for instance, isn’t a club used for pounding employees over their heads with brutally honest and highly public feedback. Nor is it an excuse to share sensitive information (like salary details) that will cause stress and distractions.
Here’s my simple filter: Transparency must lead to trust. And what more do you ask of your brand than to earn trust?
Embrace a Worthy Dream
Horst Schulze, the founder of the Ritz-Carlton and Capella luxury hotel brands, points out that, “Most companies hire to fulfill a function.” What’s wrong with that? Well, he says,
“A chair serves a function. I hire people to be part of a dream and part of a purpose.”
Organizations that embrace transparency that is authentic, inclusive, and builds trust throughout their workforce position themselves to achieve something bigger, more dream worthy, more purposeful.
A brand is far more than a logo or a clever tagline. It’s a story that’s written over time by the people who work within an organization. By embracing this approach to transparency, you can create a trustworthy story that transcends the buzzwords and adds real value to your brand.
Walt Rakowich is a leadership speaker, blogger, and seasoned business executive who orchestrated one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the last twenty years. As CEO of Prologis, a global provider of warehouse distribution facilities with more than $50 billion in assets and operations in the Americas, Europe, and Asia, Walt implemented a striking change in culture through transparent leadership.
He ultimately restored the company to its position in the industry from the brink of bankruptcy during the 2008 recession. Walt now serves on numerous corporate and philanthropic boards, including Iron Mountain, Ventas, Host Hotels, Penn State University, and Colorado Uplift. You can read more of his writing on trust and culture in the modern workplace at waltrakowich.com, and connect on Linkedin, Twitter, and in his free weekly newsletter.