What does it mean to be a transparent manager?

One of the fundamental choices every leader or manager has to make is how accessible you’ll be.

I adopted a philosophy inspired by management guru Tom Peters called, “management by wandering around.” I tried to spend about one-third of my time meeting teammates where they worked, listening and asking questions. 

When I was a global leader at Cisco, the modern version of managing by wandering around was called a “check in” done with a software tool. 

Given my commitment to being accessible, would my teammates say I was a transparent manager? 

No, according to the research behind the Transparency Imperative.

Manager Accessibility is one of the Six Drivers of Transparency that our research demonstrated to represent the multi-faceted set of behaviors and practices of a transparent leader and manager. 

In our research model, Manager Accessibility is defined by the degree to which employees believe their manager doesn’t create barriers when it comes discussing decisions that affect them. 

It’s not just enough to be available, in others words. To be a transparent manager or leader, you have jot be willing to discuss decisions with your employees, especially decisions related to your company’s budget and people processes at the heart of rewards and recognition.

Here’s a radical idea: If you really want to be an accessible, transparent manager or leader, commit to a personal act of vulnerability. 

I’ve always believed the most vulnerable act a leader or manager can take is to tell their people how they think and make decisions — in short, tell your people how you are wired. 

What makes it a vulnerable act is your willingness to be transparent about the way your brain works; and in effect, how you will likely make decisions about job roles, career opportunities and rewards on the team.

Why is this so important? While the people and budget processes of the company are typically standardized, decision makers are not. Some managers are analytical; others are conceptual. Some are process-oriented; others think process is a four-letter word.

Anyone who worked in my organizations at Cisco knew I always made decisions based on what we needed, not what we had. I told my teams I believed in constant change and evolution, even revolution; it was a reflection of my optimistic, forward-looking nature. Career advancement and job role recognition on my teams always followed these themes.

The more your people know how you think and make decisions, the easier it is to be transparent in 1:1’s or team meetings — especially when you have tough news to deliver. Basically, no one know you better than yourself. 

A good start is to take some form of a strengths assessment like StrengthsFinder 2.0. Borrow the common vocabulary of these assessments to tell your team how you think and make decisions. Or create your own.

Here’s a second thing you can do: encourage your teammates to review your company and see how well your company scores on Manager Accessibility:

Make sure you click on the “compare against” button to see how your company stacks up relative to the top ten in our database:

Compare against the Global Mean, Top and Bottom 10 Globally and U.S. Only.

Now, for employee engagement 101, make sure you are indeed accessible via your calendar. Everyone is different, but what is most important is setting a goal and sticking to it. 

A great way to compare your accessibility goal to other managers is to tap into the additional data points in our research, such as this question from our “Learn from Others” poll:

Click the “Learn From Others” in Score Breakdown button to access these questions.

Are you spending as much time with your people as other managers are around the world?  

We created the Transparency Imperative to provide this kind of data for employees to challenge their leaders and managers to do better — to be more transparent.

We hope you will consider a company review and join us in our mission to hold organizations, leaders and managers accountable for better employee engagement — by measuring transparency of decision-making with data and facts.

Next, we’ll discuss the third of the Six Drivers of Transparency: Culture of Accountability.

Posted by:Transparency Imperative Blog

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