The Case For Transparency In All Aspects Of Business

I may be alone in this, but I feel like “transparency” is quickly becoming a buzz-word that people use without understanding what it truly means to be transparent. I’ve heard it used in sales pitches to assure prospective clients that everything is going to be above-board. I’ve heard it in interviews to let recruits know that they’re going to have the inside scoop on the company. I think if everyone understood the benefits of transparency, more people would actually be transparent instead of just talking about it.

Transparency With Clients

Let me start this by saying that being completely open and honest with your clients only works if you’ve got a great product/team/service. If you strive to provide the very best and work towards that, transparency should be easy.

The key here is to find the right balance. If you’re constantly updating your clients as to what is going on, you run the risk of either annoying them or having a truly important communication get lost in the noise. When it comes to topics like budget, deadlines, and feedback, the more communication the better. For these topics, I’d suggest having a consistent process across the board that is both appropriate and unwavering. For all other aspects of the project, just ask your clients how/how often/when they prefer to be informed and find that sweet spot.

If you’re in the unenviable position of failing to deliver (whether it be a missed deliverable, an ignored request, or the like) believe me when I say the cover up is ALWAYS worse than the crime. While no client will thank you for being upfront on how you botched the project, it’s still an easier conversation to have than when they inevitably find out about it on their own. Then you’re not only in an uphill battle to save the project, you’ll be fighting to keep the client long term.

Transparency With Employees

“Ignorance is bliss”… except when it comes to your livelihood. Many business owners are hesitant to raise the curtain and air everything out to their employees. And I’m not going to make the case that everything should be in the open as there are a number of volatile topics that can cause more harm than good (each of which deserve their own post). What I can say is that when it comes to the health of the company, be as open as you feel comfortable with in good times and bad. If you’re having issues, discussing them with your company gives your employees the opportunity to step up and suggest solutions from a different perspective. It also builds trust and empowers them to rise to the challenge and take ownership of their future.

Similarly, when it comes to employee performance, open an honest communication will keep your employee engagement up and help retain those that are having the greatest impact on your company’s success. If you have frustrations with an employee’s performance, you owe it to them to be upfront about it. It’s easy to shy away because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or because it’s just a difficult conversation to have in the best of times. But if they know you’re coming from a good place and that you’re talking with them because you want to give them the opportunity to get things turned around, you’ll both benefit. And if they don’t want to seize that opportunity, these conversations will help you quickly identify whether they should be a part of your company long term.

Finally, if you’ve got employees that are shining examples of what you want on your team, let them know it! Don’t just say “nice job.” Tell them how their work has helped you, even if it’s just letting them know they’ve made your life easier because you can trust them to get things done. That type of specific feedback is going to keep them engaged and looking for ways to continue to impress.

Transparency With Recruits

This one should be a no-brainer but I’m consistently shocked by how often I hear of situations where a job was misrepresented to an interviewee and it caused an issue. What you need to understand is that there are expectations and realities. The gap between those two elements is called frustration. Be realistic in setting a recruit’s expectations and they are more likely to succeed with your company.

Now this could boil down to a breakdown in communication. I can have five people in a room, tell them the same exact thing, and have them walk away with five different interpretations. I get that. But some of these situations seem intentional. Whether the company is desperate to hire someone or they’re projecting on to the candidate and only hearing what they want to hear, I can’t say. What I do know is that if you’re transparent during the interview process, the people that end up working with you are going to stick around. If you try to hide the dysfunctions, talk about upward mobility like it’s an inevitability, or sugar coat the realities of the position, you’re setting everyone involved up to fail.

I hope this has opened some eyes or at the very least sparked a conversation. I’d love to hear about other cases for (or against) transparency in the comments!