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Transparency is an overrated leadership “buzzword” — it’s time to focus on workforce alignment

Posted by Neha De

May 18, 2022    |     3-minute read (459 words)

There has been plenty of research highlighting the importance of transparent leadership. And even though transparency in the workplace promotes employee engagement, increases productivity, develops trust and boosts morale, a large percentage of workers “feel the disingenuous use of the word,” notes Gtmhub’s Jenny Herald in an article on Fast Company

Additionally, she cites research from the American Psychological Association that shows, “Nearly one in four employees don’t trust their employers, while just about half (48%) don’t believe that their employers are open and upfront with them.” 

Herald writes, “A transparent workplace moves beyond the hierarchical companies of the past that thrived on departmental silos and need-to-know, reactive information sharing. Leading with transparency, managers eliminate murky processes and vague expectations that lead to disconnected, ineffective employees. Some cultivate a culture where employees are invested in their own professional outcomes and devoted to the organization’s overall success. This happens when there is a misalignment of incentives.” 

According to Herald, a candid transparent approach involves amplification of information, especially the direction in which the company is headed as well as every employee’s role and responsibilities in taking it forward. 

Committing to true transparency requires a high degree of leadership vulnerability. Business leaders must be able to share the good news with the bad, own misguided decisions and force hard conversations. Also, they should be willing to admit failure when needed. 

How leaders can lead with openness and honesty

Herald suggests that instead of asserting transparency and executing on visibility, business leaders should reframe the conversation to something more concrete: workforce alignment. 

Workforce alignment “starts with a defined organizational vision and mission and a strategy for how the enterprise will reach those goals. These essential elements provide the framework for every role and responsibility within the enterprise. Indeed, even tasks should track back to the clearly articulated overarching organizational goals,” Herald explains.

 She adds, “This clarity around the organization’s strategic direction provides context into each employees’ why — why they do what they do each day, why they show up for work and why they should care. Understanding an organization’s strategy and makeup also sheds light on other questions — what different departments are working toward and how individuals support their colleagues.  

“The entire workforce should have insight into the goals of other departments and how each employee supports the other in pursuit of a common organizational goal. Such alignment enables valuable cross-functional collaboration and plain old mutual understanding.” 

However, before business leaders can focus on strategic alignment, they need to communicate the information and make it readily available to every staff member. When employees know what success looks like, they can work harder toward achieving set goals as well as better deliver on the organizational strategy. 

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