5 Tips for Leading through Transparency
Leadership is hard. Business is hard. Just because someone has an incredible business acumen doesn’t necessarily translate into being a good leader.
So how does someone run a good business or lead a great team without being a good leader? I ask myself this every day.
Truthfully, I never aspired to be a business owner. I wasn’t one of those people who was bitten by the entrepreneur bug early on, starting my first business in seventh grade, quite the opposite, in fact.
Business ownership and professional leadership just fell into my lap as I passionately started chasing a solution to a problem I happen to know a lot about.
I have had to learn through trial and error. Through this sometimes painful process, I have experienced the biggest growth moments for myself and for our team when I find myself leading through transparency.
Building a culture of trust is what makes people WANT to work hard for you and WITH you.
In order to implement change, strive for bigger goals, or try something new, leaders have to motivate their teams to work with them. The team will be inspired when they feel that they can trust their leader, and there is no better way to build trust than through transparency.
When I have asked our team for feedback about me as a leader, the consistent theme is, “I like to know what is going on at a high level because it helps me understand the why.”
So how do you lead with transparency when sometimes you can’t show all of your cards?
For example, when you are dropping a few of your poor-performing PPOs… This text opens a new tab to the Plan Forward website…, there is a wide spectrum of how that decision will be received and interpreted from different members of the team. This decision will also create a lot of change and potentially create uncomfortable situations for every member on the team.
Knowing the reason behind the decision may not make navigating those challenging situations easier, but it will help in giving the team confidence and motivation to keep pushing forward until it does get easier.
Here are five tips on how to think about how to lead your team through things big and small.
1. Put yourself in their shoes
What would I want to know if I were a member of the team rather than the leader?
Think about how difficult it could be to find the motivation to work through challenges if you don’t trust that you know the full story as to why changes are occurring.
2. Understand what motivates each person on the team
When you know what makes people tick… This text opens a new tab to an article on walking in patients’ shoes…, you can explain decisions or changes you are making in a way that relates to their why.
If you’re dropping PPOs because you want to have a less chaotic practice, maybe you can help your team member who enjoys days off to understand that it will be much easier to afford days off when things are not so crazy.
Or, if this person is motivated by financial rewards, then you may explain how dropping PPOs will increase your profit margin, making it easier to give bonuses or to reinvest in your team.
3. Evaluate the best way to deliver information (team meeting, one-on-one, email, etc.)
As a leader, you may prefer email as an efficient form of communication because you can explain everything exactly how you wish with no interruptions.
However, some messages may be better handled in a one-on-one meeting.
If you have to implement a pay cut for a period of time, or you’ve chosen to change your operating hours and know that it’s going to be very difficult for a few team members, you may want to have this meeting one-on-one.
This more personal, face-to-face meeting illustrates that you understand how the decision will impact the individual, so they have a chance to ask questions and see that you did not make this difficult decision lightly.
This, in turn, helps in building trust yet ultimately shows strong leadership while making the decision which is best for retaining jobs and staying in business.
4. Think about the risk of not being fully transparent
When there is an underlying reason for certain decisions or behavior, your team can sense it.
Maybe you are very stressed because you have a personal situation going on at home which has nothing to do with the business, but it’s bleeding into your work life, making your team feel like they are not meeting expectations.
You show up every day and do the job, but you’re short tempered and irritable and not necessarily engaging with the team or bringing any positive energy.
The best thing to do is just be honest with the team.
Let them know you have some personal stuff going on at home that has nothing to do with them, but you need a little grace if you’re short tempered and not the happiest person to be around.
Keep them posted when things resolve, and thank them for giving you the space to be a little “off.”
Lead with transparency.
5. Do some prep work before having big conversations
One of our team members was new to the team, and she was doing a great job, but there was some feedback I needed to share with her that I thought might be hard to hear.
I thought through the conversation before I spoke with her to decide how to approach it, and the conversation went very well.
I didn’t know it at the time, but she actually told me I did exactly what she has done when managing others – give negative feedback in a pattern of positive, negative, positive.
Start with how they’re doing well, then talk about the negative or where to improve, and follow it up with a positive on how changing the negative will improve overall outcomes.
It left us both feeling uplifted and motivated to keep working hard and strengthened our relationship.
Transparency doesn’t mean telling every single thing and sharing even when it’s too much, but it does require being vulnerable when communicating.
Leaders are human; we are not perfect.
Sometimes (many times) making decisions about a business won’t sit well with everyone because change is hard, and the impact of making decisions affects everyone differently.
The words you speak as a leader could be interpreted a million different ways. We cannot control that. But we can control how the message is delivered and lead in a way that builds trust among the team.
About the Author
Megan Lohman, co-founder and CEO of Plan Forward… This text opens a new tab to the Plan Forward website…, leads the company’s go-to-market strategy and operations, contributing to overall business growth.
She currently has a heavy focus on strategic partnerships and industry relationships. Leveraging her years of industry experience and knowledge of dental membership plans.
Megan works closely with Plan Forward’s partners, customers, and software developers to inform the product roadmap.