With openness being one of the top five drivers of trust1, why do so many organisations neglect to develop this essential quality in their leaders and managers? After all, it’s not rocket science…or is it?
Openness is considered to be a philosophy or theory that encompasses being accessible and receptive to ideas, opinions and knowledge, whilst being transparent and collaborative in management style and decision-making2. Doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? Yet so many employees feel that openness is not practiced, with issues in the workplace ranging from low confidence, lack of ability or understanding and even the misconception that being open gives the perception of being less authoritative.
However, employees become frustrated with this apparent lack of openness and are under no illusions when it comes to organisational challenges and issues; and management appearing closed simply serves to escalate the frustration. Without the transparency or collaboration required for openness, employees will replace these missing elements and fill in the gaps for themselves.
There’s just some magic in truth, honesty and openness.
With this in mind, what can you do to develop your openness?
1. Be visible and engaged
Don’t hide behind a hierarchical management structure or bland generalised emails. Get out there with your teams, let them see you and feel your presence and become more personally engaged in them as people. Learn about your people, move away from ‘safe’ banal chit chat and discover them as individuals rather than the tasks or role that they do.
2. Be accountable and committed
Never underestimate how important it is to take ownership of your messages and decisions. Employees may not always agree with you, however they will more often than not respect you for owning a message or action. It demonstrates commitment and transparency which helps employees to understand issues and challenges. Most importantly it is a fundamental part in helping people to manage and cope with change.
3. Be consistent
Build confidence and trust by ensuring your actions and behaviours are consistent. Employees waste too much time trying to gauge the mood of their manager or which way they will be behave, so take ownership and be consistent.
4. Listen and encourage feedback
Your people don’t just want you to hear them but to actually listen and take note of their opinions and feedback. It’s a full time job really listening and understanding exactly what is being said, especially if you consider the amount of change and uncertainty that may be taking place in the current climate. Your employee’s feedback will tell you so much more than any report or survey; after all, they are seeing the business from the front line and their observations can be critical to resolving issues early on or recognising when things are or aren’t working.
5. Express your opinion
Whilst it is great that you ask your employees for their feedback, don’t be afraid of giving yours as well. As mentioned earlier, they may not agree but by understanding your thinking process and the bigger picture they can start to appreciate situations a lot more. Be confident in your opinions but not overtly authoritative – remember you’re encouraging a participative style of leadership by asking for opinions and feedback of others so strike a healthy balance of assertiveness.
Trust is the underpinning value in creating effective working relationships and has a direct impact in increasing employee engagement and satisfaction. Therefore it is critical that leaders and managers are able to demonstrate trust to their employees, customers and shareholders alike. Hopefully we have shown that this isn’t rocket science, however that doesn’t mean it’s easy although still something that must be invested in.