Transparency and Leading Change: 3 Areas to Focus On

transparent glass chess queen on chessboard“Thank you for your transparency!”

These words came at the end of a presentation I gave where I shared a new strategy—a strategy that would require change, including new roles and some sacrifice, from everyone. I wasn’t sure how everyone would respond but I knew I would have my best chance of successfully leading the initiative if I were transparent about the thinking.

Transparency plays a significant role in leadership—especially when leading change. The simple definition of transparency is to be seen through, easy to notice or understand, honest and open, not secretive. Leading change, big or small, requires people to behave differently, to shift and get on board with the change, and to actively support and progress the change.

But it has to be thoughtful transparency. I say thoughtful because being transparent, if not well thought out, has the potential to backfire.

For me, thoughtful transparency takes time and preparation. I need time to reflect and prepare for questions that may come up in conversations. It’s easy for a slipup to happen during stressful situations. A comment or explanation taken the wrong way could be just the excuse people need to sit tight, dig in their heels, and keep things as they are.

As I work to be thoughtful and intentional with my transparency, I begin with a few questions: What is the change? Why are we doing it? What is my role in leading it? A leader needs to be prepared for these questions.

Another important thing to remember is that taking a transparent approach doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Involve in confidential conversation others who can help you, including your manager, peers, and an external coach.

I also find it helpful to think through a couple of elements of the message I need to share.

What is my overall message? Reflect and get clear on what you want to share with your stakeholders. A message that is clear and compelling includes sharing the current situation and the future state. It helps explain why the change is happening, why now, and what outcomes are expected.

How will roles change? This answers the question How will this change affect me? Prepare to share what roles are needed and how current roles will be impacted. Also, share any new expectations for these roles.

What conversations need to occur? Think about the conversations you will have with key stakeholders. What are the potential gaps? What alignment is needed? What questions do you still have to answer? What still needs to be figured out? Ultimately, conversation is where transparency comes alive—both in a one-on-one situation and as a group. It’s where your ability as a leader can shine as you engage in discussion that needs to happen to facilitate movement toward goals and outcomes.

In my case, transparency served me well. It helped the people affected by the change to be involved, heard, and respected.

I hope you find this approach helpful as you lead change efforts. People can always tell if you are holding back in any way. With a little preparation, transparency can be the best way to approach any sensitive change effort.

Do you agree? Disagree? What would you add? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About the Author

Joni Wickline

Joni Wickline is Vice President, International Growth with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read Wickline’s posts as a part of Coaching Tuesday here at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

4 thoughts on “Transparency and Leading Change: 3 Areas to Focus On

  1. Pingback: Transparency and Leader Vulnerability: Worth the Risk? | Lead Me On

  2. Thanks for your post. Loved the idea about sharing the current situation AND the future state. I think that can paint of picture of where the organization wants to go which helps illustrate the gap between that and where the organization is now. Identifying that helps people see more clearly what needs to happen to achieve the desired change.


  3. Agreed Joni! People want transparent, authentic, trustworthy leadership. There is great wisdom in taking the time to consider the people that are involved and to be ready to answer their questions – without providing so much information that it overwhelms them.

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