The Secret Power of Destroying Secrets

Manipulators, backstabbers, and poor performers love organizations with secrets. In fact, they create, nurture and protect environments where secrets are normal, even virtuous.

Most organizations have too many secrets. Too many conversations are reserved for insiders. Too much information is held by too few. Secrets create elitism.

Why we fear transparency:

  1. We play favorites and favor insiders. Lee Benson, owner and CEO of Able Engineering, told me, “If transparency scares you, you have too many inequities in your organization.”
  2. We fear losing control. The old way of doing business included using information to control people by keeping secrets. Those days are over. Additionally, transparent environments undermine the power of undermines, backstabbers, and manipulators.
  3. We don’t understand the difference between personal issues and performance. Performance is for public consumption, personal issues are private. (Personal issues that negatively impact performance are sticky issue for another post. However, ethical and moral breaches that result in termination should become public information.)

Power of transparency:

Transparent organizations make employees feel:

  1. Valued.
  2. In control.
  3. Their choices matter.
  4. They belong.
  5. Respected.
  6. Responsible.
  7. Accountable.
  8. Motivated. Information creates ownership; it motivates. Secrecy demotivates.

Creating transparency:

  1. Make the journey public. Creating transparency requires a transparent process. You can’t expect people to own something they haven’t helped create.
  2. Identify true secrets and don’t expose them. Let everyone know you aren’t letting everything out.
  3. Go slow. It takes time. Rushing transparency is a fiasco that drives people underground.
  4. Model it. Transparency is protected and sustained by leaders.
  5. Use organization values, mission, and vision to determine scope.
  6. Make performance reviews public. Next week, I’m seeing a demo of – a tool that can open the performance review process. Stay tuned.

How would you feel if your organization became more transparent?

What can you do today to enhance healthy transparency?


Want more? Read: “On Useful Candor


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