“A basic tenet of healthy democracy is open dialogue and transparency.”
— Peter Fenn
“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”
— Dalai Lama
During WWII, soldiers’ letters were censored with a stamp of approval before being mailed home. The allies feared that sensitive information might get into enemy hands. When soldiers returned home and re-read their own letters, many were surprised by how much was eliminated.
While we recommend transparency with employee communication, it is also important to be aware of the verbal and nonverbal impact of what we say and how we say it. Especially with sensitive issues, it is wise to determine what might be offensive. To honor our personal values and standards, we need to become more self-aware and recognize the value of self-censoring.
Keep in mind:
Leaders will get it wrong. All leaders at one time or another have said or done something that hurt someone else. We are shaped by our biases, we are not perfect, and we must accept we’ll make mistakes. There are many different perspectives about what is or is not offensive. Learn from each situation to gain new insights.
Reflect on your mistakes. Identify blind spots and how these might shape behavior or be interpreted negatively. Our goal is to learn from mistakes and to not repeat the offense.
Apologize to the person. Seek out who was offended. Admit mistakes and avoid making excuses or giving explanations. Begin the hard work of building new habits. Ask for help and feedback to eliminate similar mistakes in the future.
Pause. Listen carefully and think before you act or speak. To avoid rushing to judgment or making assumptions, anticipate, plan for and rehearse what you want to say.
Be an advocate for others. As leaders, we’re responsible for creating safe psychological environments for other people. If we hear or see disrespectful or biased behavior, even if unconscious, we need to acknowledge what we’ve seen or heard. Approach each situation with civility, clarify consequences and provide expectations for learning and change.
Leaders can practice sensitivity and build effective habits to help ensure more transparent and inclusive relationships.
How will you pursue healthy self-examination today?
What are two things you will do to improve self-awareness regarding future interactions?
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President and Founder