Reggie Butler is the CEO of Performance Paradigm, a human capital consultancy, specializing in niche curriculum design and facilitation.
The continuous integration of technology in the workplace has changed how we communicate. Most recently, remote work and decentralized teams have made building meaningful relationships at work even harder.
This new work environment makes it challenging to communicate effectively when you don’t have the opportunity to interact with your team in person. Because of this, now more than ever, I believe today’s leaders must master transparent communication to defy these limitations and build a positive work culture.
In building this work culture, I find transparent communication to be the cornerstone of successful leadership, for it lays the foundation for trust and collaboration. Communicating clearly and openly creates an environment where individuals can feel valued, heard and supported, leading to higher levels of engagement, collaboration and, ultimately, improved team performance.
But transparent communication is not merely a skill to be acquired; it is a mindset and point of view that shapes how leaders approach interactions with their teams. Building transparent skills also takes time. It’s good to keep in mind that the goal is progression, not perfection.
I’d like to detail how through transparent communication, you can create psychological safety within your team to foster trust and encourage authenticity.
1. Communicate How You Feel
In times of uncertainty, it is essential for leaders to embrace transparency and communicate how they genuinely feel. By acknowledging our own fears or concerns, we demonstrate vulnerability and invite others to do the same. This openness allows your team members to connect on a deeper level and navigate challenges together.
Expressing our own feelings during times of transition helps showcase empathy and a genuine willingness to support our team members. When faced with significant transitions or challenges, such as restructuring or downsizing, it is crucial to acknowledge the emotional impact it may have on you and the people around you. Communicating your emotions and being an empathetic listener encourages a safe space for others to share their concerns and anxieties.
Empathy In Practice
Let’s say your organization is undergoing a major restructuring that may result in some job losses. As a leader, you likely have your own anxieties and worries that you have about the situation. It’s important to show vulnerability. It’s okay if you don’t know how things will turn out or what’s next. Share what you know. Sharing your authentic emotions creates an open dialogue where team members feel safe to voice their own fears and concerns. Together, you can work towards finding solutions and supporting one another throughout the process, fostering a culture of transparency and unity.
2. Share What You Know When You Know It
Timeliness is another important aspect of transparent communication. The sooner people have access to relevant information, regardless of its structure, the better equipped they are to navigate challenges. This is particularly important during layoffs or organizational restructuring, where uncertainty and anxiety can be overwhelming. By providing information promptly, even if it is preliminary or subject to change, leaders can empower individuals to make informed decisions and manage expectations.
Strategies For Communicating Sensitive Information
First, consider the method of communication. Choose a medium that allows for privacy and encourages open dialogue, such as one-on-one meetings or small group discussions. This creates a safe space for individuals to express their concerns and ask questions.
Secondly, focus on transparency within the limits of what can be shared. While not all information may be divulged due to confidentiality or ongoing processes, it is valuable to provide context and explain the reasoning behind the decision making. Sharing the why behind what can and cannot be shared helps team members understand the bigger picture and builds trust, even in difficult situations. Being honest about the information’s limitations helps manage expectations while maintaining transparency.
The Value Of Sharing Why
Sharing the why behind the information you can and can’t disclose demonstrates respect for your team members by letting them in on the decision-making process. Explaining the rationale behind sensitive information helps individuals grasp the larger organizational context, align their expectations, and enables them to see that decisions are not arbitrary. This also further builds transparency and can mitigate feelings of uncertainty or unfairness, promoting a culture of open communication and collaboration.
3. Clarify That Information Can Change At Anytime
It’s important to acknowledge that information can change at any time, and as leaders, we cannot control this uncertainty. External factors, shifting priorities or new developments can impact the information we have and the decisions we make. However, as leaders, we can take accountability for sharing updated information as soon as possible to ensure our teams are informed and empowered to navigate the situation effectively.
Creating Psychological Safety In Ever-Changing Situations
Let’s consider a situation where a project’s scope is constantly evolving due to client demands and market dynamics. In such cases, leaders can create psychological safety by regularly communicating updates and changes to the team. In this environment, team members can freely express their concerns or questions and seek clarification when needed.
To keep the team informed, leaders can establish clear channels of communication, such as regular team meetings, project updates or email updates. These channels should be utilized to provide transparent information about changes, explaining the reasons behind them and highlighting any potential impacts on deadlines or deliverables.
Additionally, I believe that it is important for leaders to emphasize that they will share information as soon as it becomes available, even if it means acknowledging that some details are uncertain or subject to change. This level of transparency helps manage expectations and builds trust, as team members understand that they are being provided with the most up-to-date information available at that moment.
Transparent communication takes practice but becomes easier the more you exercise it. It has the potential to transform your team, but you can only unlock this if you as a leader make it a priority.
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