In this day of fake news, alternative facts and down right lying, it’s refreshing to read the Transparent Leader that celebrates honesty, integrity, and openness.
I just finished reading The Transparent Leader: How to Build a Great Company Through Straight Talk, Openness, and Accountability by Herb Baum, the former CEO of the Dial Corporation.” Since I co-wrote Absolute Honesty: Building a Corporate Culture That Values Straight Talk and Rewards Integrity, it’s no surprise that I was attracted to the title.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book because it espouses the same values as mine, but with a focus on those who run large organizations rather than the managers and practitioners on the front lines, as does mine. Baum basically says that to be a successful leader, you must demonstrate integrity, treat people right, and be open and honest in all transactions. YAY!!
One thing I really liked was Baum’s transparency test where he challenges every leader reading the book, whether a CEO or a first line supervisor, to answer these questions:
1. Have you ever hidden a mistake from a supervisor or colleague?
2. Have you ever failed to disclose a product bug, defect, shortcoming, or something else to a customer, or told a customer something that wasn’t entirely true to win their business.
3. Have you ever expensed a lunch or dinner or office supplies, when it wasn’t exclusively for business?
4. Does your organization (or department) have a written cultural contract?
5. Can you list all the items on the contract right now, without reading it?
6. Are you accessible to every employee you manage, and if you’re the CEO, to every employee in your company?
7. Do you admit mistakes in your department (or company) and report them publically?
8. Do you encourage whistleblowers?
As I read these questions, I had to gulp a few times, realizing, that I’d have to answer some of them in a way that makes me not very proud. The real question, however, is not what I (or anyone else) is guilty of in the past, but what I intend to do in the future. Am I willing to accept the questions as dictates for how I should run my business, and therefore, behave accordingly?
Well, that’s my plan. But I know it will be easier said than done. For example, when I forget a deadline that causes our firm to lose a contract and therefore penalizes the sales person who worked on getting the contract (this has happened before), will I be willing to fess up and take the blame for the screw-up? Better yet, am I willing to compensate the sales personnel for my mistake? Ouch.
Or, am I willing to turn down business because it’s not something we can do well? Our firm provides training and keynote speaking for meetings, and we offer a variety of topics within that purview. I’ve often received offers to provide training in areas in which neither I, nor my staff has expertise. It is tempting to accept that business and then scramble to provide the service. In the end, however, the customer is usually disappointed. So, I make it a practice to turn down such business. But it is tempting to do otherwise.
According to Baum, making a practice of being on the right side of these questions is part of the prescription for being a “transparent leader.” In his estimation, it’s the only way to run a business successfully. I couldn’t agree more.
And yes, I fessed up and paid the commission.