Reggie Butler is the CEO of Performance paradigma human capital consultancy specializing in designing and facilitating niche curricula.
The continued integration of technology in the workplace has changed the way we communicate. Recently, remote working and decentralized teams have made it even more difficult to build meaningful relationships at work.
This new work environment makes it challenging to communicate effectively when you don’t have the opportunity to communicate face-to-face with your team. That’s why I believe now more than ever that today’s leaders must master transparent communication to defy these constraints and build a positive work culture.
In building this work culture, I find transparent communication to be the cornerstone of successful leadership, as it lays the foundation for trust and collaboration. Clear and open communication creates an environment where individuals feel valued, heard and supported, leading to increased engagement, collaboration and ultimately better team performance.
But transparent communication is not just a skill to be acquired; it is a mindset and point of view that defines how leaders interact with their teams. Building transparent skills also takes time. It’s good to keep in mind that the goal is progression, not perfection.
I would like to describe in detail how you can create psychological safety within your team through transparent communication to build 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 really feel. By acknowledging our own fears or concerns, we show vulnerability and invite others to do the same. This openness allows your team members to connect on a deeper level and tackle challenges together.
By expressing our own feelings in times of transition, we can show empathy and a genuine willingness to support our team members. When faced with major transitions or challenges, such as restructuring or downsizing, it is critical to recognize the emotional impact this can have on you and those around you. By communicating your emotions and being an empathetic listener, you create a safe space for others to share their concerns and fears.
Empathy in practice
Suppose your organization is going through a major restructuring that could lead to job losses. As a leader, you probably have your own fears and concerns about the situation. It is 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 express their own fears and concerns. Together you can work to find solutions and support each other throughout the process, fostering a culture of transparency and unity.
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 overcome challenges. This is especially important during layoffs or organizational restructuring, where uncertainty and fear can be overwhelming. By providing information quickly, 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 concerns and ask questions.
Second, focus on transparency within the boundaries of what can be shared. While not all information is released due to confidentiality or pending 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 limitations of the information helps manage expectations while maintaining transparency.
The value of sharing why
Sharing the why behind the information you should and should not disclose shows respect for your team members by involving them in the decision-making process. Explaining the rationale behind sensitive information helps individuals understand the larger organizational context, align their expectations, and allows them to see that decisions are not arbitrary. This also increases transparency and can reduce feelings of uncertainty or unfairness, fostering a culture of open communication and collaboration.
3. Make it clear that information can change at any time
It is important to recognize that information can change at any time and as leaders we have no control over this uncertainty. External factors, shifting priorities or new developments can affect the information we have and the decisions we make. However, as leaders, we can take responsibility for sharing updated information as soon as possible to ensure our teams are informed and able to effectively navigate the situation.
Creating psychological safety in ever-changing situations
Let’s consider a situation where the scope of a project is constantly evolving due to customer requirements 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 ask for clarification if necessary.
To keep the team informed, leaders can set up clear communication channels, such as regular team meetings, project updates, or email updates. These channels should be used to provide transparent information about changes, explain the reasons behind them and highlight possible impacts on deadlines or deliverables.
In addition, I think it is important for leaders to emphasize that they will share information 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 they are getting the most up-to-date information available at the time.
Transparent communication takes practice, but it gets easier the more you use it. It has the potential to transform your team, but you can only unlock this if you make it a priority as a leader.