I was listening to a great conversation with Ed and Peter Schein recently. They threw out a powerful concept:

“Accountability and transparency are needed when you don’t have trust and openness.”

Since I’m a fan of both trust and transparency, this challenged my thinking. But I think they have a great point which is worth exploring.

When I look at relationships of trust, I realize that often trust is built upon a deeper understanding of the other person’s motivation, behavior, and values. Transparency is one of the ways to see those deeper attributes, because you believe you’re seeing the “real person” behind what they do.

For most of us, maintaining multiple “masks” for different situations takes a lot of energy and skill. That leads to burnout, inconsistencies, and an ever-increasing web of complexity. When others see that, they’ll sense a lack of openness and they’re less likely to trust you.

I’m concluding that trust is the ultimate goal, and things like transparency and openness and consistency are building blocks to get there. If you try to “buy” peoples’ trust through artificial means, they’ll perceive it as manipulative and dishonest, destroying the foundations of trust. You’ll get compliance at best, but certainly not enthusiasm and engagement.

As a leader, you’re probably interested to have your people trust you. Great! Realize that this is a long term effort, though, because consistency must be demonstrated over a long time. So concentrate on these key questions:

  • Where do people see a lack of willingness for me to be open?
  • Where do people see inconsistency?
  • Where am I being reluctant to be accountable for my behavior and decisions?

Remember that we’re talking about others’ perceptions of you. The best way to find out? Talk with them! Without pressure, and with vulnerability. You may have to show just a bit more of who you truly are.

But you’re on your way.