Positive Transparency

I’m very transparent with my team. I believe in openness. We talk about what we’re doing, what other people are doing, how things are going. We discuss the reasons behind our work. I try to communicate as much as possible what’s happening on a broader scale. We share hopes and fears, both as a team and in weekly 1–1 meetings.

And, in general, this is a great thing. A manager should trust their team. Trust them to do good work without interference. But also trust them with knowledge and information. Trust them to know the “why” of things. And be able to be honest and up front about the bad as well as the good.

This week I had some conversations that encouraged some self reflection. For the last couple of weeks I’d been frustrated. I had a few problems with the direction of some work.

Everyone has those issues, I’m sure. But I’d been too transparent about those frustrations. I let some of that negativity affect my interaction with my team. I made a couple of bad, or questionable, decisions on how I approached things. Vented a few times. Not been a positive influence.

Transparency should encourage a forward-looking attitude. Frank conversations are important. Identifying problems and concerns, and feeling free to raise them, is important. But in a way that encourages solutions and action. Not in a way which reinforces negativity.

My mistake wasn’t that I was open about my concerns. The mistake was that I focused on my frustration rather than talking about next steps. If a conversation is about how something is bad, then I’m not enabling my team. I’m only giving the option to agree that things are bad, or disagree and say that things are good!

Being open and transparent should encourage action. If I’m expressing a concern, it should be with a focus on how to mitigate the problem. About how to reduce its severity. If I’m talking about how something isn’t good enough, I should be prompting ideas to make it better.

I wasn’t running around all week crying that the sky was falling. But I definitely let myself be more negative than usual. I’m lucky that I have a great management chain. My 1–1s with them provoked that self reflection. They didn’t have to tell me what to do, but they helped coax that assessment from me.

I think it was in a Manager Tools podcast that I heard a great snippet. A direct manager is the most immediate representation of “the company” to any employee. That’s worth remembering.

I’m human, and imperfect. I’m not going to beat myself up about a mistake. I’m not going to stop being open with my team. But I’ll do so with a greater understanding of how I present myself, and how it affects them.

It’s important as that leader to encourage positivity. Not in a false “nothing is ever bad” kind of way. But in a way that makes people enthusiastic about pushing to make things better.

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