Integrity Matters
July 14, 2004

Openness helps keep business on the move

Question: (E-099)

Dear Jim:

Why do you feel that openness is so important in an integrity-centered company?


Openness in organizations encourages two-way communication. Leaders listen as well as talk. Sales professionals, managers, front-line employees and customers all know that the way relationships are built in a "give-and-take" culture builds trust. As a consequence, the politics of "manipulation" is replaced with a process of direct and immediate feedback -- confirming the importance of helping one another, making a legitimate profit and sharing credit for success while energetically owning mistakes. Integrity-centered organizations, whether creating cash for profits or simply enhancing the impact of a not-for-profit endeavor, accept the importance of providing stakeholders with necessary and appropriate information.

Privately held institutions, those not having outside investors, may manage their finances and their operations more discretely. However, their values and culture will always be visible. And, if they have been in business for a generation or more, their reputation will speak volumes about who they are and how they operate.

Many years ago, as I consulted with a well-known entrepreneur, he offered the following advice regarding how to lead and manage. His words were: "Never do or say anything that you would not want your parents to know about." This may not be profound, but it could have modified the behaviors of many who find themselves and their companies on trial for illegal and inappropriate actions.

Openness does not mean foolish and irresponsible "giving away" of trade secrets or profitable business relationships. Nor does openness suggest that "skilled executives" are masters of secretive manipulations, always playing their hands "close to their vests." Integrity-centered organizations know that talented individuals require trust and deserve to understand the larger picture in order to leverage their talents in the best ways possible. Such forthrightness and transparency are risky, but are not nearly as costly as not enabling those who are central to the enterprise to bring the best of their skills and abilities to bear on the projects that lie in front of them. Since human beings are not mushrooms, very few would seem to enjoy being left in the dark and simply having manure tossed on them until they could be harvested and consumed. Openness allows the sunlight to shine and bring life to the enterprise. Yes, openness is important.

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