Why Transparency Matters — Both For You and Your Company

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Oct 22, 2014

Even the oldest trees aren’t ashamed to stand naked.” — Marty Rubin, American author

How transparent is your organization? Does every person in every department have a working knowledge of the organization’s goals, mission and vision, and core values?

Perhaps your organization even practices a more radical transparency, where any employee can check the monthly numbers, read board meeting minutes, and review proposed policy changes. Some companies also provide access to their capital structure and strategy, stress collaborative decision-making — and even make everyone’s salary a matter of public record.

A key to a happier and productive workforce

This type of corporate-level transparency seems to result in a happier, more productive workforce overall — a lesson to take to heart if you happen to be a manager yourself.

People are more likely to take ownership of their jobs when they understand how they fit into the corporate structure, why their work matters, and how it moves the company forward as a whole.

Even if the effect is minor, remember the old “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” rule. Small collaborative efforts spread over long periods, or shared with dozens, hundreds, or thousands of other workers, can really add up. All those inexpensive burgers and fries at McDonald’s built it into a fast food empire, one Happy Meal at a time.

Personal transparency

And how about you? Do you carry forward this spirit of transparency in your own work? Let’s look at some areas where transparency can boost your individual and collective productivity.

  1. Data — Unless you’re working on a secret project, don’t “silo” your data so other people can’t get at it. If siloing has occurred because of electronic or mechanical incompatibilities, make every effort to get that data out into the open. Not only will doing so make your job easier, it’ll make other people’s jobs easier (also making life easier for you, since you don’t have to hunt it up and produce it for them). If you have templates or checklists that will help others save time, share them! It will come back to you in the end.
  2. Your schedule — Change your calendar permissions so that everyone in the company can see your daily schedule. This helps people check your availability before giving you a call or heading for your office, only to find you’re out of town or in a long meeting. People can send you meeting requests to get some time on your schedule, cutting down on unplanned interruptions.
  3. Your projects — Keep people informed about what you’re working on, and let them know you’re open for ideas and suggestions. If you count on someone for information or some other link in a productivity chain, make absolutely sure they know your success depends on theirs.
  4. Your strategic knowledge — Rather than waiting for your manager to pass along your organization’s strategy documents, take the initiative and dig it up the information yourself. Have a meeting with your manager to tie your goals into her goals, so you can capitalize on the company’s strategy and better exercise your empowerment.
  5. Your progress — Don’t keep wondering how well your team or division is doing. If your company hasn’t already implemented transparency in this area, urge them to do so. When you can easily view and own team or organizational performance metrics, you can adjust your schedule or approach to boost productivity in problem areas. If you’re not doing as well as you’d wish, call up the top performers and ask to take them to lunch. Share your success secrets with your colleagues when given an opportunity as well. What comes around, goes around.
  6. Your communications — If you’re unhappy, say so. You don’t have to be aggressive or nasty, but don’t beat around the bush and smile off your frustrations. Be honest and forthright in your communications, so the problem doesn’t fester. Tell them what you’d like to see happen the next time to avoid any problems. When you’re impressed with others’ work, let them know that, too.

Helping them helps you

Most of the points I’ve outlined here may seem to be more for the benefit of your teammates than for you yourself, but as the saying goes, “Helping you helps me,” or “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

When your approach to work is as clear and as readable as an open book, all benefit—and your own productivity goes up and stress goes down. Always be transparent, which will allow people to trust you to do what you promise, give what you can, and provide access to anything that’s not sensitive.

In the office, nice people really can finish first. As the late Zig Ziglar pointed out, you can have whatever you want—as long as you help other people get what they want.

This was originally published on Laura Stack’s The Productivity Pro blog.