In its simplest sense, business transparency means clear, unhindered honesty in the way that business is conducted. The Business Dictionary has defined transparency as a “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making,” and “essential condition for a free and open exchange whereby the rules and reasons behind regulatory measures are fair and clear to all participants.”

What is Transparency?

In many cases, the word transparency is used as little more than a buzzword, a marketing opportunity. Whether it’s a corporate executive looking to win back disillusioned consumers and shareholders or a politician making whatever promises necessary to obtain public office, this term seems to have earned a bad rap over the years. And as a result, many have come to question the authenticity of those who use transparency as a part of their normal lingo. While observing the steady decay of this word would be a fascinating study in itself, there is another more beneficial lesson to be learned in the wake of this linguistic disaster—particularly as it pertains to the way businesses are run.

This lesson can be learned, at least in part, by simply rediscovering what true transparency is. After that, one can utilize that understanding to discern the purpose of remaining transparent in the way business is done, as well as the often detrimental consequences of flouting that responsibility. Finally, with that new-found understanding, one can generate a useful, ingenious action plan for increasing transparency in his or her own business. Keep in mind, though, not all decisions need to be transparent since it’s not the decision-making that needs transparency. It’s the ramp-up to making the decision that should be open.

How to be Transparent

All leaders are deciders. It will be beneficial to your team and the company if you allow them to assist in the decision-making process sometimes. If you close yourself off in your office then come out later presenting your decision, employees feel like they’re being dictated to rather than being part of a team. It doesn’t matter if you choose to have a meeting and the decision is made there within the group or if you meet with your team then decide on your own what the final solution is, it’s important to help them feel included. There needs to be transparency in this process. A team or department that talks together learns:

  • How to trust one another
  • That decision making is a process
  • The goal of a process may not be the goal of the entire staff
  • Consideration for minority viewpoints

Allowing voices rarely heard during decisions may help your organization save money. For example, consider the implications of selecting software and only involving IT and department heads. The employees who are going to be using this software have no idea the changes are coming and weren’t given an opportunity to express what they believe would make them more productive when they work.

Sometimes a decision won’t turn out as expected. As a leader, it will be your task to explain what went wrong and how to avoid similar errors in the future. Talking that out with your teams will be far easier if they are included in the decision-making process.

Transparency Expectations

  • Employees want a leader who comes to the problem at hand ready to learn
  • Employees want a leader who respects their staff’s experience.
  • Employees want a leader who is willing to guide the process, so all voices are heard and considered
  • Employees want a leader who is open about the goals and parameters of a given project or change
  • Employees want a leader who really listens

If you work at a small- to medium-sized company, altering your decision-making strategy to be transparent may not be very difficult. You likely meet with most of your staff for major decisions anyway. If you don’t, it’s worth your while to make a plan to start.

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