July 14, 2004
Openness helps keep business on the
Why do you feel that openness is so important in an
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.