Before we delve deeper into the difference between ‘honesty’ and ‘transparency’, the important thing to remember is that these are key ingredients to fostering a culture of trust. Trust is important in any relationship and if you’re leading people they must feel you’re their advocate as much as they’re to be yours.
Honesty is being truthful when the truth needs to be known. It means you’re authentic and promote authenticity within others. In leadership terms you’ll need to keep open and frequent dialogues with your team, inviting them to communicate their feelings and thoughts even when it is uncomfortable or unpopular. The same practice applies to you. Not only should you be communicating honestly, you’ll also need to keep your word and follow through on promises. Your team will follow suit and be led by your example.
Transparency is the truth visible in itself. It means you lay your cards on the table and you don’t hide or conceal what’s already been presented. In leadership terms it means setting and communicating your expectations clearly, involving people in the decision-making process and giving access to information without crossing clear boundaries. Transparency is a spectrum and you’re not expected to go all in or nothing. Expectation will be placed on you to set your own limit on propriety and respect, the same will then be mirrored by your team.
Creating an honest and transparent culture will build on team engagement. Your colleagues will attain a sense of autonomy and carry greater clarity on the goals and expectations outlined by the strategy. This will also invite greater feedback for you and the company directly from the front line which is invaluable.
Lose the pillow and be direct.
Stop cushioning the conversation to minimise any negative impact. Be direct with your employees and colleagues, so they have a clear action plan when something’s not working well. Tell them what’s at stake and the necessary steps to resolve issues together. Cushioning the conversation doesn’t benefit anyone. This may include giving compliments, slipping in the actual issue during a small talk, or changing subjects so quickly the other person doesn’t have a chance to digest the problem. In the end, the employee isn’t even aware that there’s a problem to fix.
Give this a try the next time a serious, direct conversation needs to happen and reflect on the result and how the outcome could have been different had you cushioned it. Be as honest, empathetic and supportive as you can be!
Written by Sahar Habib
Founder of Coach Wilson