The Power Of Transparency: 4 Ways To Provide The Why And Build A Culture of Candor

No matter what size organization I’ve led, whether it’s a team of 4 or 400 — I always provide the why.

This has enabled me to become a very direct, transparent leader.

Since it’s not something that comes easily for many leaders, I’m sharing my approach.

Here’s 4 things to make sure you do:

Most leaders search for “authenticity” when really all they need is to be real with their teams.

When things are happening and you’re navigating choppy waters, bring them in. Don’t tell your team after the fact, and let it be a thing that “happens to them”. Make them part of the discussion and provide the context you need as a group to make a decision and move forward.

Timing is everything, pay attention to the signals.

Sharing the context behind why something is happening, why this is important, or why I should care means everything. And as a leader, it’s your job.

There are moments where you can’t divulge everything, or shouldn’t, but for the most part how you show up with the why will shape your organization’s culture. People assume everyone has the same context they do, and we all know what happens when you do that.

Instead, give the rationale or backstory needed to help people understand how we got here or why we’re doing something.

Be the leader that pulls the thread from high level conversations in the boardroom and senior leadership to the teams on the ground. And teach your leaders how to do the same.

Explain what it means in their day-to-day, how it should change their approach on a specific initiative, and provide guidance to steer towards the aligned outcomes. Set your teams up for success by letting them know what’s top of mind for senior leaders and hot button items. Take the time to get in sync and stay in sync.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that they are getting that context somewhere else.

When things are awesome let people know — share more of your enthusiasm for great work, cross-functional collaboration, and always celebrate wins.

When you hit a major milestone or progress marker in a transformation plan, don’t just skate by it — give it airtime. When things are tough, admit it. Don’t sugar coat tough news, and make it sound like sunshine and unicorns. Take the time to explain why it’s needed to get to a better place.

Be real with your people and you will earn their trust… and their respect.

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Rachel Kobetz

I love shaping product cultures that connect people and make technology more human. SVP + Global Head of Design at Expedia Group. Prev. BofA, Amazon, + Samsung