In this episode, we're breaking down why transparency and authenticity are two qualities all leaders should actively demonstrate in their day-to-day duties. And joining Beth to help explore the many facets of being a transparent leader is my favorite business leader, Matt Sunshine, CEO of the Center for Sales Strategy. Matt offers a lot of food for thought about:
- How transparency not only fosters trust within an organization but also allows everyone to feel that much more comfortable sharing their ideas.
- Why, if you're only sharing the good news, that's not transparency; that's just PR.
- And, finally, how your employees should know less information than what you would tell your closest confidant but more than what you would tell the general public.
Defining Transparency and Authenticity
At the start of the conversation, Matt breaks down transparency as the act of sharing relevant and important information, both the good and the not-so-good.
“If all that you’re telling them is good, then that's not really being transparent,” Matt says. That's really just PR, right? So, I think that's an off-the-cuff definition of transparency.
“Why I think it's important, as a leader, is because we spend a lot of time at work. 30%, 40%, and in some cases, 50% of our week is spent at work or working for your company.
“If you don't know what's going on, then you're really not part of the company. You're really just a cog. You're just really a worker.
I always wanted to know what was going on because I wanted to be a big part of the success of the business. So, I always figure it's important that others know what's going on.
“Plus, if they know what's going on, they might have really good ideas that you've never thought of.
“And if they don't know what's going on, as a leader, you're going to get frustrated with their ideas because they don't have the big picture, they don't know everything going on.
“So, I think it's really important to be transparent. Being transparent makes for a better organization, makes for stronger leadership.
“And whether or not you're a leader or not. You should be transparent.”
Building Trust through Transparency
Trust is essential for a company's success. It allows team members to freely voice their opinions and ideas.
Matt details how crucial transparency is in fostering high levels of trust within an organization.
“In business, unfortunately, it's not always good news,” Matt says. “There are a lot of tough decisions that need to be made along the way in running a business, whether that's people decisions or product decisions, or customer decisions, or timing decisions, etc.
All sorts of really important decisions...they become tough when you have to go it alone. And I just feel strongly that the more transparency you have so that others can see what is going on, the better the results will be.
“That doesn't mean you have to share all your dirty laundry. I mean, sometimes you just can't, and sometimes it's not productive to do that.
“Transparency, to me, means that you're being really authentic in sharing the most relevant, pertinent information so that people know where we are as we work towards our shared North Star."
Transparency (or the Lack Thereof) in Action
“Many, many years ago. I worked for a company where there was no transparency,” Matt says. “Nobody knew what was going on, and because of that, whenever you had an idea, you kind of kept it to yourself.
"So, the salespeople would all talk amongst themselves. They would say, ‘You know, here’s what they ought to do around here’ or ‘they would be smart if they just did this.’ No one ever shared it. No one ever shared that information with anyone, because they didn't care. They didn't tell us anything.
“I'll tell you, at our company, I think that I work really hard at making sure that we’re really, really transparent. I tell people all the time, ‘if there's something I didn't share with you, it's just because I forgot to share it with you.’
“And if you want to know what's going on, all you have to do is ask. I'll be happy to go into as much detail as I possibly can so that you feel as though you understand how we're running the business.
“I think, because of that, some of the very best ideas that we've had actually came about because we were open and transparent.
“A lot of people know that we just launched this Sales Accelerator Ai at The Center for Sales Strategy, and it's game changing. Clients are absolutely loving it. But that's only because we were extremely transparent with our company that we wanted to explore ways to use AI. We didn't know exactly what the right thing for us to do was.
“We created a task force and we gave them all the information that we had. We were completely transparent with them, we let them come back with ideas and because of that transparency, I think we're a better organization.
Strategies for Open Communication While Balancing Transparency & Confidentiality
“So, you cannot break confidentiality,” Matt said. “You can't, no matter how much you might want to. If it's something is told to you in confidence, that’s it.
“There are certainly times where you have information or you know things about what's going on that you can't share. And, yeah, you want to be transparent. But to me, confidentiality is something you can't cross.
“I think a great way to start is by having a regular town hall meeting...once a month, once a quarter where, as a leader, you can provide a really good update on the business.
Now, there's probably information that you would share with anybody: your clients, your prospects, to a public audience, etc. Then there's probably 5% of information that you would never share with anyone, except maybe your closest confidant, right?
Somewhere in between what you would share with your closest confidant and what you would share with the masses is what you should be really transparent about with your organization.
They should get more than what you would tell the general public.
“You should feel compelled to say, ‘I'm being really transparent with everyone. Let's keep what we're talking about within the organization.
“I tell people this all the time; they say to me, ‘Well, Matt, what if that person goes and tells someone that information?’
“And I say, ‘I’ve got to trust them.’
“If I don't trust them, we’ve got other problems.”