“Before we go any further, you should know this about me: I’m going to be honest and open with you, whether it’s something you want to hear or not.”
While that statement makes for an interesting article introduction, I started with it for a different reason: It’s also what I tell employers at the beginning of our recruiting relationship. I’m starting a series of blog posts focused on recruitAbility’s core values and this—business transparency—is a critical one. We call it “Being a Window” because we don’t reflect back to you what you want to see, like a mirror would. Instead, we want you to look to us and see an opportunity for growth stretching toward the horizon. If the view isn’t ideal, we want you to see that for yourself so that we can work together to fix it.
Transparency with our clients and our candidates is the only way we can share accountability, which is how we prefer to do business. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb to say that transparency is always a good idea. Will it make you as many enemies as friends? Perhaps. But those who are turned off by your honesty are likely not a good fit for you anyway, and that’s true whether it’s an employee, colleague, client or friend.
Keep in mind, transparency doesn’t need to be aggressive or offensive. Approach it from a place of integrity, and brutal honesty doesn’t need to feel, well, brutal. In fact, it’s hard to be successful with high transparency if you don’t also practice high integrity.
Not long ago, Harvard Business Review published a warning on business transparency, cautioning that—when not practiced correctly—it can lead to a paranoid, micro-managing, blaming company culture. To prevent this, transparency needs to be conducted:
- With a purpose. Transparency just for the sake of transparency is worthless. There needs to be a stated and understood reason behind it. For me, it means being honest and direct with my clients, candidates, and teammates so that we can support our other core values of accountability, simplicity (no drama), and service.
- With a plan. There are many ways to go about being more transparent in business—some will push you toward conflict and others will push you toward progress. Always choose progress. If the transparency invades privacy or if it demeans instead of being helpful, it’s likely not the route you’re ready to take. For instance, some companies like Buzzer and SumAll have open pay policies, publishing employee salaries for everyone to see. That type of total transparency is great but it’s not something you want to jump into lightly. It takes strategic purpose and planning to set the stage.
- With practice. You and your team won’t always get it right. You’ll question whether transparency is truly the way to go at times. But be open and honest with each other in those moments. Be prepared to learn, to forgive (and be forgiven), to dish out bad news (and take it) directly and graciously.
Hit the sweet spot with transparency and you’ll see some amazing things unfold. Employees who are kept in the loop with the organization’s financials suddenly become more invested in and accountable for the entire team’s success. Clients and customers who are handed hard truths become better partners who share your vision. Your talent pool starts filling with candidates who truly fit your company culture because you’re not hiding who you are until after the hire. You just need to be smart enough to lay the groundwork for success and bold enough to give it a try.
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