Transparency is a word that is included on almost every corporate bingo board. Touted as the key to successful organizations and mentioned regularly by executives and board members at all the major companies, transparency is the established foundation that leaders reference when looking to inspire trust and respect. However, even though the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 sought to institutionalize and encourage honesty and openness by and among employees, shareholders, management, and the people they serve — too often the politics, limitations, and organizational dynamics of the corporations we work for and deal with every day inspire a very different outcome.
The challenge is that while actual transparency grounds a relationship in fact and opens the door to authenticity, it also uncovers the fundamental conflicts of interest that exist between the various parties involved.
For instance, would you want everyone in your office to know what you make at every bi-weekly payroll? What profit margin do you believe is acceptable for each product you purchase? Do you believe it is ethical to charge $100 for something that cost you less than $1 to make? Do you agree that management’s job is to balance shareholder, employee, and customer interests? What responsibility do you have to influence management when you believe the best interests of your company or your customers are at stake? Are you more responsible to give your customers the best price possible? or are you more responsible to give your shareholders the best return possible? Or are you more responsible to give your employees the best compensation and benefits possible? On any given project how do you choose between and balance quality, speed, and cost? and then, how do you communicate that choice to your management, your colleagues, your customers, and your shareholders?
The list goes on. As people discover more, as they increase the transparency of the organizations they serve, they increase the available information and so also increase the opportunity for decision making by everyone involved. Transparency, in fact, far from simplifying the situation, actually complicates it. Transparency opens the door to question after question, so much so that if transparency were the single highest priority, the level of communication required to achieve it might actually bring the daily operations of any organization to a complete stand still.
I think about a friend of mine who talked about his time working for one of the major chip makers. He said that back in the beginning of the semiconductor business the devices were so simple that there were engineers who actually understood the entire design of some of the first microprocessors. But as more and more functionality was crammed onto the chips it quickly became apparent that a single human brain wasn’t capable of retaining the full design all the way down to the single transistor as the complexity exploded in pursuit of speed and power. So the engineers devised the approach of breaking their processors out into functional “black boxes” — engineered units with defined inputs and defined outputs. These “black box” units were set up such that an engineer didn’t need to understand what went on inside that unit in order to consume it as part of a broader design. Taking this approach meant that an engineer could build a bigger “black box” by combining a collection of smaller “black boxes”, and then those bigger “black boxes” could be combined into even bigger “black boxes” until at last the lead engineer on the project could combine some collection of all of these “black boxes” into a complete microprocessor and the product, which no one person could individually understand, would be complete and fully functional.
The point here is that although all of the information about that microprocessor was available to the entire engineering staff, and could be reviewed, analyzed, and studied when the need arose, it wasn’t practical for the daily operations of the chip maker to have its engineers all fully informed of where every transistor was placed in a given chip in order to make their contribution to the design of it effective. In fact, had the engineers constrained themselves to being fully transparent across their teams and attempted to enforce complete transparency on all of their engineers to ensure they were all informed about the placement of every transistor on the chips they worked on, it is likely that Moore’s Law would have failed long ago and we would have been lucky to get beyond the old 8088 from Intel.
So, what is a leader to do? If transparency is such a drag on performance and such an obstacle to delivering on the expectations of customers, employees, and shareholders, is the answer simply to strive to meet the minimum standard set by law and nothing more?
The Bible offers a different answer. Where transparency focuses simply on the availability of information, the Bible focuses more specifically on the availability and the understanding of truth.
In the book of Matthew alone, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth…” twenty-six times.
When describing His life’s mission, Jesus said,
“You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” – John 18
And when He prayed over His disciples the final night before His death, Jesus said,
“Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” – John 17
Truth. There is a reason that in courts across the country people are asked to share, “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. Information may contain the truth, but still not convey it. In other words, transparency may not actually result in transparency. Sharing information is certainly a necessary foundation for healthy organizations, but as a leader it is important to bring focus, meaning, and direction out of the sea of information that comes across your desk every day by elevating your communication to be more than simply sharing information. Your communications as a leader are your opportunity to provide a more concise and informative view of the truth.
What is the truth about who you are as a leader? What is the truth about the direction you want your organization to go? What is the truth about what is best for the customer, best for the employee, best for the shareholder? What is the truth that you can speak to authentically? What is the truth that you are choosing to stand on with integrity?
Your vision isn’t perfect. Your information isn’t perfect. Your understanding isn’t perfect. Your conclusions aren’t perfect. But as a leader you are responsible to take these imperfect inputs and lead with integrity by communicating the truth as you see it.
Don’t just share information, share insight.
Your ability and success as a leader are fundamentally tied to how much of the actual truth you can see, you can act on, and you can communicate to others.
The challenging fact is that as a leader your opinions don’t really matter. Only the truth matters. And so, rather than getting wrapped up in tradition, or hearsay, or popularity, or politics — rather than looking to advance your agenda, your view, or your belief — as a leader it is your calling and your mission to uncover, empower, and advance the truth.
When you replace simple transparency with speaking the truth, it uncovers relevance, performance, accomplishment, influence, and so much more.
When you replace simple transparency with speaking the truth, it reveals who you are and who you can be.
When you replace simple transparency with speaking the truth, it connects you with other people in more meaningful and lasting ways.
When you replace simple transparency with speaking the truth, it empowers the passion, the love, and the purpose you have to share with the world.
So, as you build your business, your career, your network, your relationships, your marriage, your family, and your own personal walk with God, challenge yourself to rise higher than simply making the necessary information available. Choose instead to pursue with intent and focus the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and God will open up the doorway of opportunity in a new way in your life.
It’s like Jesus said,
“You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8