Full Transparency

Strategy & Leadership

“Great leadership usually starts with a willing heart, a positive attitude, and a desire to make a difference.”
– Mac Anderson

 

Transparent Communication in the Workplace

In recent years, integrating new technology in the workplace has changed the way that businesses communicate, both internally and externally. With more and more remote jobs on the market, effective communication is critical for keeping everyone on the same page and working toward shared goals. Similarly, with digital platforms bringing businesses closer to their stakeholders than ever before, external communication can be just as important. But how much communication is too much?

Here, local leaders weigh in on the importance of transparency and share helpful insights they’ve gained over the years. Read on to learn more about when, why, and how to effectively utilize transparent communication in the workplace.

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Dalya Qualls White

Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

“Transparent communication, to me, is the foundation of trust and understanding. In the context of a health insurance company like BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, transparency is about providing our members with information that is easily accessible, clear, and empowers them to make informed decisions about their health coverage.

With hospital systems across the state requesting higher rates, we’re the only ones in a position to advocate for our customers and hold the line on rising costs. We owe it to our employer group customers and members to communicate early and often about why we’re negotiating with a provider group or hospital and what that means for their healthcare coverage. By explaining the changes, providing clear updates, and being available for dialogue, we aim to provide certainty, which helps build trust.

Embrace a ‘no surprises’ approach. This is my professional motto because it encourages accountability. When challenges arise, address them promptly and take responsibility for finding solutions. Continuously seek feedback and actively listen to the needs of your teams and clients. Finally, be adaptable and open to improvement – transparent communication is an ongoing commitment to building and maintaining trust.”

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Randal Harrell

Chattanooga Market President, Synovus

“Transparent communication means communicating honestly, directly, and consistently, which builds trust among all parties. As the Synovus customer covenant states, we pledge to serve every customer with the highest levels of sincerity, fairness, courtesy, respect, and gratitude, which we deliver with unparalleled responsiveness, expertise, efficiency, and accuracy. Transparent communication is a core component of this covenant and a foundation for building trust with our clients and communities.

Transparent communication is essential to creating a healthy work environment that fosters collaboration and innovation. With clients, transparent communication is a must for building trust and creating long-term relationships. Always strive to be honest, fair, respectful, and responsive. Consistently delivering on these values should create an environment of transparent communication with both your colleagues and clients.”

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April Cameron

President and CEO, Chattanooga Airport

“At the Chattanooga Airport, transparent communication builds trust with our passengers. The growth of our airport is dependent on our community continuing to choose to fly Chattanooga, which is why it’s important that they trust us for their travel needs. That means being proactive and transparent in our communication, including with our air carriers and vendors. If there’s screening equipment down or an issue on the runway, we do our best to deliver timely, transparent information because we know it impacts their day.

Being transparent is about communicating with your clients, customers, or team when times are good and when things have gone wrong. I would encourage other leaders to incorporate regular meetings or engagements to ensure you follow up with your team, customers, and community. While I am not new to the Chattanooga Airport, I am new to the president and CEO position. In this new role, it’s been important to me to meet with as many people in the community as possible, and I’m continuing to schedule those interactions regularly with stakeholders across our region.”

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Dr. Renee Murley

Head of School, Boyd-Buchanan School

“Transparent communication, when possible, is essential in developing trust and confidence in the leadership of an organization. When information can be shared among employees and stakeholders, it unites an organization and creates consistent messaging among the group. They feel valued and appreciated when they are included in transparent communication. It is imperative for our employees and stakeholders to know they are valued members of the Boyd-Buchanan community.

In a school setting, it is critical to share information with families and other stakeholders so they have trust in decision-making within the school. However, there may be situations involving confidentiality and legal guidelines that prohibit us from sharing information desired by parents and stakeholders. When these circumstances occur, it can be difficult for others to understand our limitations in being completely transparent. 

In any situation, communication is critical to prevent misunderstanding or confusion. Often, false narratives are created when transparent communication is not implemented. Even if you anticipate disagreement, it’s best to be open and provide information, sharing relevant details as they become appropriate for the situation.”

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Nick Decosimo

Senior Advisor, Decosimo Corporate Finance

“Transparency is not an unalloyed good. While transparent communication can be an effective tool when used appropriately, it can also unintentionally cause more harm than good when misused. In the right situation, transparent communication can foster trust, strengthen a team, or reassure a customer. On the other hand, if misused or overused, it can result in precisely the opposite effect than what is desired. If a workplace isn’t willing to learn from past mistakes and move on from them, transparency can be deadly.

My advice to new leaders would be to carefully consider what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. It is especially important to consider what unintended consequences may arise so you can get ahead of those challenges. This will allow you to be more strategic and create an effective communication plan. If transparency is the right course, proceed unapologetically – but I would advise against thinking of transparency as the default approach to all communication.”

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Jason Allen

Chattanooga Market Executive, Regions Bank

“To me, transparent communication means honestly and respectfully sharing what you know in a way that is beneficial to the recipient. I believe transparency is critical for setting expectations, generating motivation, diagnosing issues, and organizational improvement. Transparent communication allows colleagues to level-set expectations, avoid negative surprises, and protect the customer experience.

The reality is that the less clear you are, the more susceptible your audience is to inaccurate assumptions. Poor ‘locker room energy’ can be contagious and spread harmful cynicism. As a leader, the goal is to promote a culture of transparent communication that allows an associate to step into your office and share what is on their mind with the belief that you care and will help. Otherwise, these situations could be bottled up or shared horizontally without giving leadership the ability to address or clarify a situation.

Transparent communication is also important vertically within an organization. It’s important to avoid shielding upstream feedback that could improve the organization. Building a culture of trust that encourages transparency is the best way to guide a team and keep your finger on the pulse of your business. At the same time, remember to ensure that your transparency is buoyed by beneficial information.”

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George Wilson

CEO, Southern Payroll and Bookkeeping

“To me, transparent communication means taking accountability and being open, honest, upfront, and clear. Transparent communication, whether it is with internal employees or clients, builds a ‘piggy-bank’ of trust and goodwill. When we inevitably make a mistake, as any human will, the hope is that the piggy-bank should be full enough that the employee or client will extend a certain amount of grace and leeway. Keep that trust piggy-bank as full as possible at all times!

One of our technology partners recently imposed a slight monthly price increase, and this directly impacted the price that we needed to pass on to our clients.  We sent a series of emails, texts, and made phone calls, clearly explaining what had happened and how it would impact them going forward. A leader is going to have tough conversations throughout their career, whether they are with employees, clients, vendors, or even peers. While the other party may not like what you have to say, I have found that most will respect your honesty and transparency, even if they do not necessarily like or agree with your decision.”

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Jimmy White

President, Urban Story Ventures

“Being transparent is especially important in the business of acquisitions and dispositions. With moving timelines and the uncertainty of closings and what future operations may look like, it’s best to be clear with employees throughout the process. I like to tell people we play with our cards face up – we prioritize communicating the overall big picture and end objective.

Our only constant is time. Everyone has 24 hours in a day. To make the most of it, I like to be as transparent as possible from a moral and ethical perspective, but also to not waste time. When it comes to deals, we hope to win fast or lose fast. Allowing things to happen or not in a timely manner is beneficial for all. Why waste time on a project if it’s not going to be a win-win? If we’re clear and it’s not working out, we’re ready to focus on the next win-win.

Don’t go into business if you’re not prepared to be clear and honest. When managing teams or businesses, you won’t see longevity if you aren’t transparent with your employees and clients. Your reputation is everything, and it’s directly tied to how transparent you are with everyone – employees, clients, vendors, partners, investors, and so on.”

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