I work in the offices at The Chariot Group and, while I am officially with its sister company, The Strive Group, I find it hard to truly severe my ties with the former organization. That being said, I often attend some of their meetings! My attendance during these events affords me the opportunity to observe the leaders.
I’d like to discuss two of them today. Rick and Denise Thomas own the company and serve as the CEO and CFO respectively. Not too long ago, I was struck with just how committed Rick and Denise were about being open, honest and, dare I use the buzzword, transparent, with their workforce. It is inspiring, actually, to see two people who are determined to do the right thing, even if it means there are negative consequences for doing so.
Negative consequences to being transparent? Heck Yes!
Being transparent nearly always invites questions.
Being open often invites discourse and disagreement.
Being honest sometimes invites judgment.
Rick and Denise do it anyway; they accept and appreciate how this type of communication and culture makes them stronger, more effective leaders. As a bonus, this type of culture helps their business grow and prosper. Below are just a few things I have observed:
The Chariot Group holds a lot of meetings. Seriously, a lot! However, this isn’t because they love to use their fancy dancy audiovisual equipment and drink good coffee. It is because a transparent culture demands discussion. Nothing is off the table, nothing is taboo, and nothing is above reproach. Also, employees absorb and process information in different ways and at different paces. Therefore, a leader’s commitment to meeting with employees to invite questions, debrief or summarize decisions, etc. ensures they can connect and engage with everyone. Meetings are expensive for sure…and need to be well managed to control costs…but a good leader recognizes that the “cost” of a well managed and well informed meeting is well worth the return these events inevitably offer.
Employees, by the way, often smirk or cringe at the thought of another meeting but they need to realize that often, meetings are the price they pay for a transparent culture, and it’s best not to look that gift horse in the mouth.
Because nothing is above reproach in a transparent culture, there is a lot of analysis. Processes are reviewed, tasks are thrown under the microscope, quality and quantity of communication is assessed, etc. A good leader ensures the analysis doesn’t get “personal” but does encourage open discussion about mistakes, failures, and other opportunities for improvement. He/she knows that it is only through objective and honest feedback that business sustainability, growth and success can occur. By having open and consistent analysis, the leader is also communicating to the employee that his/her intellect, insight and opinions are valuable.
Likewise, employees need to realize they have a role to play in this regard. Employees must partake in professionally offering feedback to others and openly receiving this type of information from others in order for value-added analysis to occur. This two-way engagement and analysis is the price they pay for a transparent culture.
Meetings, analysis and discussion are absolute wastes of time without a strong foundation of trust in the organization. Without trust, an organization is going to continually struggle with a lack of productivity. Without trust, sabotage and turnover will increase. Without trust, commitment and loyalty will be non-existent. However, with trust, leaders will not only get heightened productivity, loyalty, respect and engagement, they will also get what I call the “forgiveness factor.” (This is when you have the ability to screw up from time to time and not find yourself in a hole.) Leaders who have built “forgiveness factor” will be able to postpone, ponder or otherwise sit on a decision from time to time without their workforce getting overly frustrated. They will be able to make unpopular decisions that are still accepted and executed by a workforce that trusts the direction was the right way to go. Building trust begets trust and, therefore, leaders work to build it. They offer “the why,” they are relentless in ensuring their workplace feels comfortable coming to them, and they don’t back away from difficult conversations. They show empathy and compassion not because they should but because they want to. They care about their employees. My gosh, this takes time, energy and an incredible amount of spirit and gumption, a good leader commits to it!
Because trust is a two-way street, employees need to reciprocate. Being accountable, responsible and trustworthy will result in a leader trusting them with information, trusting them with analysis, and trusting them with decisions. Just like with leaders, building that trust takes time and effort, but it is a small price to pay for a healthy, transparent culture.
I don’t know how much longer I will be going to The Chariot Group work group meetings. I suppose at some point, Rick, Denise and their teams won’t find any value in my attendance. But for now, I’ll go, listen and offer them and their teams my insights. As a bonus, I’ll share some of my “ah ha moments” with you.