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Become a Transparent Boss

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

The new profile for what team members want in a boss starts with Transparency. It used to be that people wanted to work for a Visionary boss, for a Motivating boss, or for someone who would just take good care of them. But now that sort of feels parentalistic and patronizing if transparency isn’t there. 

Unvarnished Truth

Now, according to research studies published by Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Deloitte, and many others, people want a boss who will speak the truth, someone they can trust to share the tough information and feedback that can affect their future. Employees trust themselves to be visionary and able to respond to changing conditions. They are already motivated to learn on their own if they need to. But today, they demand a leader who will spit out the unvarnished truth about what is going on in the business and someone who is 100% honest about how they can improve their performance. Although this is especially true for Millennials, it’s true for most workers of all ages too. 

Their perplexingly complex work now requires employees to swim in massive information coming in from all direction. They detest a secretive or hard-to-read boss who wants to shield people from the truth. It just doesn’t work. 

Ready to Leave

Some of the most valued. “high potential” talent in corporations today are ready to walk out of an opaque work environment—where leaders whisper behind closed doors about future plans and “save up” corrective feedback for their official once- or twice-a-year performance evaluations. The friction around traditional performance reviews has gotten so high that Adobe, Microsoft, Deloitte, Accenture, GE, and Medtronic—among others—have tossed out the annual process altogether in favor of more frequent transparent feedback exchanges between bosses and employees. At Adobe, where turnover has been studied in the several years since they dropped annual reviews, retention has more than tripled. This shift is attributed in surveys as a direct result of a more transparent and helpful feedback process. 

Be Vulnerable, and Don’t Spin the Story

It’s OK to admit failure. It’s OK to not have the answers. But it’s absolutely not OK to hold back the facts these days. Try this out yourself. When you’re at a loss for solutions or surprised with unfolding business events, share everything you know with your team. I promise they will a) not treat you like you’re stupid and b) enjoy the chance to help out and work hard to find the answers. 

Share Information in Real Time

When information comes in from higher ups at the company or from outside events, talk with your team about it as soon as you find out. They really, really have an urgent need to know, and will consider you a withholder if you delay. By the way, the story will come out anyway in a few days or hours, and they will feel disrespected if they’re not the first to know. 

Give Feedback Every Day

The second you can think of what they need to do differently to be more successful, say so. Never hold back your feedback until next Monday or the end of the month. Build trust by being a boss they can count on to always share—in real time—your perceptions about how they are doing at their jobs.

Ask for feedback about your progress

Ask how it’s going. Are you sharing more and holding onto less? Are people more willing and able to step up to the fast-paced challenges you see everywhere. You should start to notice yourself that transparency is a good thing. You should feel less stressed and more supported by the team’s brainpower and drive for results. 

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