There are two schools of communication in business: one says you must share everything with the team, the other that you should fillet out the bad bits. Here's why the former option is best.
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Thinking back on all the managers you’ve had, which ones stand out as the best and the worst? It’s likely that the worst ones deprived you of the information and tools to do your job which, rather ironically, would help you deliver more value.
This infamous style of management has now even gained the nickname Mushroom Management. This is the shady art of keeping employees in the dark on company performance, and instead feeding them misinformation.
This information drought results from a number of issues - bosses may intentionally play power-games to diminish their teams influence in the business, or in a smaller business you may simply not have the time or resources to constantly share data and information.
Whatever the reason, this lack of transparency in the workplace can have a serious negative impact on your business performance according to our research, with a quarter of UK employees saying they have left a job due to a lack of open information at work.
So, how can you prevent this opaque culture forming in your business? Well we’ve put together four tips to help you build an open and transparent culture.
Sharing bad news is better than no news
The more information you don’t share, the more staff will do their own digging. Over half of employees already do their own digging for company information according to our research. This creates a culture of mistrust between managers and their team, which can build a toxic culture in your flourishing business.
"Be open about negative news, but be sure to frame it the right way to create positive action"
Many argue that it’s better to hide information if the company picture isn’t quite as positive as hoped. Suggesting it’s the boss’s duty to protect team morale. However, our research found that over nine in ten would still prefer the information to be shared rather than hidden. Be open about negative news, but be sure to frame it the right way to create positive action.
Transparency generates efficient decision making
Being open with your team also allows each employee to take control of their work and make decisions without bureaucracy. If your team are flying blind to company performance and direction, they won’t have the quantitative info and data on which to make solid decisions.
As such, they’ll simply ask you because you’re the one ‘in the know’. Even if you need to run an autocratic team and have to have the final say on each decision, getting info into the hands of team members will mean the first solution you’re presented with will be better than ill-informed solutions put together without any quantitative context.
Focus your team on the KPIs that really matter
For a transparent data policy to work it needs to go beyond sharing. Focusing on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) ensures everyone is focusing on achieving the same results using data. As a business it’s crucial to define the goals that are most important to success for your business based on your business model and growth stage.
Do you know what any of this means, or even what it's for?
Firstly, you should define what your business objectives are. From there define the KPIs that, if achieved, will enable you to reach your next stage of growth. These overall goals can then cascade down the business, with each team having specific KPIs which fit into the overall business strategy.
Giving team members this visibility into the direction of the company will focus them on the work that will have the biggest impact towards achieving business goals.
Visualise and share the data all the time
Disclaimer: We provide a data communications tool, so may be a little biased here.
For data to be useful to a team, it needs to be openly available all the time. This means it’s in front of employees all the time to remind them what matters.
To clarify, this doesn’t mean data being shared once a month or weekly via email. The context of your business can change a lot in that time; meaning teams are already acting on out-of-date information. Your team need to be able to monitor and react to changes all the time, so make your data always-on.
Building a transparent culture will lead you to a more efficient business where employees are fully focused on the same goals as you. Meanwhile, building an opaque culture will lead to staff leaving due to mistrust, a lack of focus across the business on top line goals and ultimately all the decisions landing on your desk.
Building a transparent culture where performance data is openly shared takes time and effort, but that time and effort will create efficiencies which far outweigh that effort over the course of your growth story.
Paul Joyce is CEO of Geckoboard, the KPI dashboard application.