‘Openness’ means many things to different people. To some, it’s equivalent to transparency, while to others it means the courage to try new experiences, and to allow one’s self to be vulnerable. In this two-part series, I am going to explore each of these perspectives that sometimes make Openness an abstract concept in a professional context.
Experiencing the unknown by delving into the depths of the previously concealed can be daunting, but also liberating. In a professional context, Openness could help us become not only better employees and leaders but also better problem solvers and team players.
A common misconception about ‘Transparency’ is that it means to share everything, to be an open book, and to have no filters. However, as Simon Sinek explains, it is more about providing context and reducing uncertainty.
Transparency is about respecting one another enough to ask the difficult questions and listen to the difficult answers. It is to be inclusive and real with your employees and teams, involving the people in your organisation in the decisions that will impact them. It’s about trusting people to be able to handle the good news and the bad, and about not creating a false sense of safety.
Leading with Transparency
The pandemic made leaders step up across industries to lead through uncertainty while guiding their employees to live through the daily challenges. Transparency in organisations is the need of the hour. Companies that are not able to work towards having stronger internal communications end up making their employees feel left out of decisions that impact their livelihood and future. When employees are informed rather than involved, their fear of the uncertain future only fuels doubt in the leadership of the company. Transparency allows a smooth and timely flow of information across teams, which creates a deeper shared understanding and increased respect and trust in one another.
In the hospitality industry, airlines, hotels, and restaurants were forced to lay off millions of people globally. Some industry leaders preferred to paint a picture of false security until the day they had to terminate multiple contracts. Having experienced this first-hand at the beginning of the lockdown and seen so many friends and colleagues go through the same, I can confirm that while the purpose was to protect the brand image and attempt to reassure employees, this was not the most compassionate or respectful way to treat people during a crisis. It only made matters worse for those who trusted their leaders, and their well-intentioned but eventually empty promises of security. This erosion of understanding, respect, and trust coupled with escalating anxiety levels hampered the ability of the employee to be empathetic to their employer’s situation.
Creating a false sense of hope does more harm than good. It creates more stress for employees who hear one thing from management and see another in practice. In such situations, it is more beneficial for both parties to adopt transparency in their communication and respect one another. If your company is planning to lay off employees, do not tell them their jobs are safe. Explain the situation as it unfolds, share the challenges faced, and offer support to help them seek employment elsewhere. Give referrals, write recommendations, listen to employees’ concerns and let them know that the decision to let them go was the absolute last resort. It was not a reflection of their skills, dedication nor the quality of their work.
While some of the largest companies in the world struggled with Transparency and Empathy during the pandemic, Brian Chesky, Co-Founder and CEO of Airbnb did everything right whilst communicating with his employees.
Take a moment to read this note and reflect on the importance of Transparency in Leadership.
Deconstructing his message, here’s how Transparency was achieved in a compassionate, empathetic, and respectful way while laying off 25% of their global workforce.
Serving with Transparency
Transparency between brands and clients is another aspect of Openness worth exploring. With the pandemic creating large safety-centric trust gaps between businesses and customers, transparency could go a long way in making customers feel safe enough to return to the business establishments they once frequented.
When a business is forthcoming about information regarding their prevailing safety measures, it shows customers that their concerns are respected, that they are valued, and that efforts are being made to protect them. Customers, in turn, could respect the protocols laid down for their own safety.
The value created by Transparency in customer service is reciprocal.
Trust cannot exist without Respect.
Transparency can only exist in the presence of Trust and Respect.
Watch SatisFIND’s Reboot S1, E5 for a quick guide on how to practice Openness in the workplace.
A passionate and proactive Marketing, Strategy, and Hospitality professional in the week | An experimental baker, home-chef, binge-eater, and binge-watcher over the weekend