Transparency is a hotly debated topic these days, and its definition has become just as diverse as the people who swear by its necessity. For some, the term means an open-book policy from the top down, while others feel it applies almost exclusively to the financial going-ons of a business. You’ll also find those who see it in regard to fair processes, the sharing of information, or the allocation of resources.
Regardless of the definition, transparency is really about building trust. That’s the long and short of it, and trust is the easiest (and often quickest) way to establish loyalty from employees and customers alike.
Building Employee Trust
At our company, for example, we build trust with our employees by being as transparent as possible on what’s expected not just in their positions but for each remodeling project. From the start, we provide the criteria for what we consider a successful renovation, and then we periodically review its progress — much like any project in any other industry.
The periodic review ensures everyone involved in the project is on track. It also ensures that the project will meet the homeowner’s expectations. Though this practice obviously safeguards us a company, the ultimate goal is to set up our employees for success. They go into every project trusting themselves.
What’s more, they know leadership is supporting them throughout the process, which helps to establish and maintain trust from them. As a result, we’ve got a pretty loyal crew here.
Partnerships Built on Trust
The same holds true for strategic partnerships, and we use transparency as a means to building trust in a very similar way. At the very beginning of the relationship, we let potential partners know our expectations. We encourage them to do the same.
We also let them know what we’ve found as the most effective manner for working with us. Then, we ask if there’s anything we need to do on our end to ensure a successful partnership. In my experience, it’s best to get everything out on the table before venturing too deep into a relationship that isn’t mutually beneficial.
Recently, I was working with a designer partner, who was having troubles getting all of the details of the red lines complete. Customers were complaining because they thought we weren’t listening to them. In order to resolve this problem, I first had to let this valued partner know that we were committed to working through this problem.
We weren’t going to “fire” the designer. We weren’t going to stop using the person. We were just going to analyze why these problems might happen and look for a solution.
Once this piece of information was made known, it was much easier for this partner to work collaboratively with us to solve the problem rather than being defensive about why it might be happening.
Getting the Customer’s Trust
Customers are more apt to build trust quicker when they understand what is needed from them, where they are in the process, and what deliverables and outcomes they can expect upon the project’s completion. All of this can easily be settled with an upfront and honest conversation.
For me, being transparent was a bit of a struggle. I’m more of a big picture guy. I get an idea in my head and can’t wait to get somebody working on it. So, I had to come up with a process for being transparent, and you may need to do the same.
In my case, I had to learn to slow down and speak in the customer’s language (i.e. no more talk about schematic design, loadbearing walls, king studs, ground cover, midpoint heights, etc.). Slowing down allowed me to get better outcomes at a faster rate. We were all on the same page, and the customer just felt more comfortable.
It also provided me the opportunity to tell people the same thing in a couple of different ways. I never assume that somebody will completely get my thoughts after the first or second discussion. It always takes time and patience to convey a message.
Whether you’re working with a colleague, partner, or customer, you as a leader need to fulfill on the expectation of transparency, and this transparency needs to come from an authentic place. Otherwise, you’ll never build a foundation for trust (pun intended).