Transparent about Transparency.

The word “transparency” was the overplayed pop song of corporate and political culture in a post-recession economy. Its intention was noble: to unveil the traditional corporate practice of shrouding internal goings-on in mystery and open the metaphorical boardroom doors for all to hear. Risen from the ashes by the housing market crash and the corners cut by government and big banks in loosening underwriting standards to create a shady and volatile borrower’s market. “Failure to disclose” kicked off nearly every sentence following the news around the crash. Hence, transparency comes into play as the overused solution to this catastrophic bust.

So.. what happened in between? Why does this term now induce a wince rather than a fist bump?

Corporations followed suit and decided that transparency had a place in all business transactions. It was the word of the hour, taking the brunt of all side effects post-collapse of the world’s most powerful economy. Transparency didn’t have a fighting chance in withstanding the blows of association. With all of those impacted scouring the internet for someone or something to blame, Transparency was there. Embedded in every article, quote, and above every big bank’s headline as the solution to avoiding this in the future.

Transparency limped on in courage, looking for a synonym but coming up short. Organizations scooped it up and decided to apply it to their internal practices. If the banks and the government needed Transparency, by God, so did American companies.

Its intention is pure. Transparency was and is a much sought-after solution to years of defaulting to the same hierarchical practices that corporations were built on. But, building a culture of transparency by way of honest communication and feedback is easier said than done. This may require managers and leadership to unlearn behaviors that have been defaulted down to them for generations of managers.

Pioneers of business practice now turn to words like honesty, truth-seeking, open. They encourage employees to ask questions when they don’t know answers rather than building upon lies in order to save face. Diversity and inclusion have a place in this, as well, when companies open their doors to unfamiliar practices and viewpoints in order to shake up their own standards. It’s an admirable lesson learned and an incredible time to be a part of this movement.

Want to learn how to develop a culture of raw truth? Transparency may be overused, but the concept must remain. Let’s not let history repeat itself. Start a conversation: 

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