Posted September 12, 2012 by

5 Reasons You Should Be Transparent at Work

Harrison Monarth

Harrison Monarth, contributing writer

Transparency is one of the most misunderstood concepts in executive circles. Clear to all ranks however, is the notion that a perceived lack of it can have a crippling effect on a leader’s reputation.

Consider both current U.S. presidential candidate and incumbent, on the issue. When the latter, Barack Obama, took office, his Administration promised that it would be “the most open and transparent in history.” All evidence to the contrary, say prominent critics who point to the government’s alleged disappointing track record in processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. On the flip side, Democrats (joined by some vocal Republicans), are assailing challenger Mitt Romney for not releasing the standard 10-year stretch of tax returns as presidential hopefuls had done for the better part of the previous — and this — century. Meanwhile the media are having a ball with the Romney shut-down persona which seemingly won’t let anyone in, including them.

Transparency is a Tool — Use It Wisely

There’s clearly something to what Irish politician Gerry Adams once observed, “One man’s transparency is another man’s humiliation.” However, done right, being transparent can enhance the brands of both executives and organizations, bolster credibility during crisis, and even serve as a strategic weapon in the rhetorical war for stakeholder trust.

Business leaders are discovering that the demand for “radical transparency” is increasingly built into the executive job description. Simultaneously, social media, “gotcha” mainstream media (notice the explosion of fact-checkers during the Republican and Democratic National Conventions), impatient investors, and hostile stakeholders who leak confidential information make it impossible to duck the transparency requirement. Steve Jobs might just have been the last business leader who could get away with secrecy and use it brilliantly as a marketing strategy.

For the rest of us, here are 5 proven ways for executives to most effectively manage their reputation and that of their organizations in this era of full disclosure.

5. Develop Your Own Style of Transparency

While there are best practices out there about what, how, and when to disclose, the most effective approach is to develop one’s unique style. In essence, “transparency” can be simply defined as a way of communicating that seeks to inform, not conceal. The latter, according to George Orwell in “1984”, is obvious in the tone, language, reasoning, and material cited by tyrannical nations and organizations.

A master in putting her own imprint on disclosure has been U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She goes from one job to a more powerful one, seamlessly weaving a persona — from wife and mother to first lady to impassioned senator to astute head diplomat — for the new position and with Clintonesque charm manages the mechanisms that give various constituencies access to her. Of course she’s a pro in cooperating with the media. Earlier in her career she leveraged the publishing of books to allow others to peer in. Although her grasp of impression management in those monographs was obvious, many in the media were satisfied that they learned a good deal about who this leader was.  Continue reading . . .

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