Transparency ~ How Much Light Do You Let In?

What do you think of when the word transparency comes up?  Today, the possibilities seem endless when we consider that word in a business or a political context.  When I think of transparency though, I tend to go to the simplest of definition and perhaps the most literal and that is, “allowing the transmission of light through material”.

Somehow for me, that definition creates a feeling of wide-open space with room for light and air.  And, in the context of organizational life it means openness in the information we share and the way we communicate with each other.  This kind of openness is important to the creation and maintenance of dynamic, resilient organizations because it invites everyone to fully participate and take responsibility, and credit, for decisions made and goals achieved.

But, while it sounds pretty wonderful, transparency in organizations has its complexities and, as such, is not easy to accomplish. So, where to begin? And how does one accomplish it in practical terms?

Well, assuming that we agree that creating transparency in organizations is a good thing, it seems to me that its accomplishment begins with the leader. Leaders set the tone for organizational communication practices.  Therefore, the leader’s view of how much information is to be shared influences the culture of the entire organization and its attitudes.

So, beginning with the leader on a personal level, my thoughts always go to the Johari Window, a model often used to help people gain a better understanding of themselves, their communication practices, and the possibilities associated with sharing more openly with others.

The first pane of the window represents My Public Self.  This is where thoughts and feelings have already been openly expressed.  It’s stuff about us that everybody knows. For instance, I have brown hair, (well most of the time anyway).

The second pane shows My Blind spots, you know, the things that others see in us that we don’t.  For example, someone once told me that he saw me as aloof.  This kind of took me by surprise because it wasn’t how I saw myself at all.  But, when I looked at this information more closely, I began to realize how he might have gained that impression.  And that was useful.

The third pane of the window highlights My Hidden Self.  This is knowledge that we have about ourselves that we have not chosen to share with others.  For instance I… Oh, never mind.

The final pane is the area reserved for My Unconscious Self, the stuff we don’t know that we don’t know.

To create greater personal transparency using the Johari Window, our task is to increase the size of the public self by exposing more of our blind spots and showing more of ourselves to others, thus reducing the area of our hidden self.

How do we accomplish that?  Well, as with everything, it’s easier said than done but for me, a couple things come to mind and here they are:

Dare to share ~ Sometimes we keep things hidden about ourselves for fear of being judged or in some way thought less of. In some leaders too, there is a need to have people view them as invulnerable.  I think, when leaders show some vulnerability, they are also showing their humanness and inviting those they lead to do the same potentially increasing everyone’s transparency.

Ask ~ Our blind spots will not suddenly clear if we don’t ask others what they see and experience when in our company.  To get the real goods though, we have to be willing to take the not-so-good information about ourselves and be seen to be doing something about it, or at least acknowledging it.

The bottom line is that choosing transparency means becoming more accessible to others; more genuine in our business dealings; more open to new possibilities; and better able to garner the trust of others. And, if you are leading others and working toward a common goal, that’s important, don’t you think?

In fact, what do you think?  How much light do you let in?



Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, communication, Leadership, Leadership Development

6 responses to “Transparency ~ How Much Light Do You Let In?

  1. I really enjoyed your article. I believe that you can’t be a good leader if you are not what you want other people to be. Embracing more transparency in your business leadership will only encourage others to do the same. The trickle down effect in a positive way.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Frank, yes, demonstrating the behaviour and attitude you want to see in others is key to creating the work environment you envision. In short, like so many other practices, transparency is catching if the leader goes first.
      Thank you for coming by and for adding your voice here 🙂

  2. alison p-h

    Gwyn- great post. Transparency has to start from the top to create the culture. I have worked for a large organization where transparency was evident and the teamwork that it fostered was incredible. I am now with an organization where transparency is not a common practice and with many recent changes this has had a severe impact on morale. As I look for the next move to better match my skill set, one of the factors I will be researching is to see how the company communicates. Thanks again. Alison

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Alison,
      I’m thinking that one of the things that sets you apart from so many others is that you have had experience working in *both* an open *and* a closed organization, communication-wise. While most of us have hunches about what we would prefer, it is great to hear from someone who, having experienced both, really knows what it feels like. Thank you for bringing that contrast here.
      Best wishes to you as you plan your next move. Knowing what your looking for is half the battle. 🙂

  3. Gwyn – I’m with you. Getting to transparency is one of those things that you never really fully finish but is a journey that benefits everyone along the way.

    Alison’s comments are really interesting as well. She is seeking a new employer; one that values this quality as much as she does. There’s a great employer branding lesson in there.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Susan,
      You make a good point. Achieving and maintaining desired levels of transparency is an ongoing pursuit and as you say, you never really *arrive*.
      Thank you for bringing that observation here and for coming by! 🙂

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