Best-selling author, ethnographer and leadership thought-leader Simon Sinek asserted on LinkedIn last month that “Transparency doesn’t mean sharing every detail. Transparency means providing the context for the decisions that we make.” 1,323 people commented on this post. ‘Transparency’ – or perhaps Mr. Sinek? – must be popular these days.
Here at Growmotely, the word transparency features in this value of ours (it’s one of five): “Transparency and candour: we build trust as we show up as we are, in our truth, communicating openly and directly.” I love this value. As does our Founder and CEO Sarah Hawley, of course, as this is one of her core values. What is ‘transparency and candour’ however – especially in the context of company culture? And what might this look like if we were to embody this fully as leaders of companies and teams?
The Cambridge Dictionary offers a useful definition of transparency for our purposes: “the quality of being done in an open way without secrets.” And, candour, then (from the same source) is: “the quality of being honest and telling the truth, especially about a difficult or embarrassing subject.” The former lays the expectation for openness and honesty; the latter adds to the mix that we might need to call upon some courage now and again to embody this value in our teams.
So: what are some of the ways in which we embody this value at Growmotely? Let’s take a look.
Our leadership team shares Growmotely’s numbers at every all-company meeting.
Here at Growmotely, we gather together (online) for an all-team meeting on the first Tuesday of every month. (Our April team meeting is right around the corner mind you!) We have a standardized format that Sarah, our CEO, guides us through, that – amongst other things – showcases the different areas of the business. We use a variety of metrics to measure how we’re doing; many – but not all – of those metrics include numbers. One of the areas that is covered is financials and cash flow, and – as a start-up – these numbers can and do fluctuate. A commitment to company transparency on this front tears away the curtain that exists in so many companies, and allows all team members to be ‘in the know’ when it comes to company numbers and just exactly where we’re at each month. Having a background in finance, our CEO is not only transparency-literate; she’s also numbers-literate. And she shares the journey with us.
Our Partnerships Manager – Jess Rowe – spoke up about her previous role not being a good fit for her.
Our Partnerships Manager – Jess Rowe – has come to learn over time that transparency is one of her personal core values. Perhaps it’s not by accident then that she and Growmotely have found each other. She wrote on LinkedIn a few months ago: “Over the past few months I have leaned more and more into being open and transparent with people. I do this by speaking my truth and not shying away out of fear that someone may disagree with me or reject me. Sometimes this means the conversation may be uncomfortable, sometimes this means I agree to disagree. I have stepped more into transparency and my truth over the past few weeks, when I have felt the need to have a very open and honest conversation with some of the leaders of Growmotely. Thankfully, Growmotely has incredible leaders and every single one of them made me feel seen, heard and most importantly, they made me feel safe.” This truth that Jess felt compelled to share on this occasion was that the position she had been hired into – a role on the Account Management Team – wasn’t really working for her. She loved working closely with her partner in that department, but she had come to understand that the actual work wasn’t a good fit for her. Which is how she eventually ended up as our Partnerships Manager…where she is absolutely crushing it.
All recurring meetings at Growmotely are ‘open’.
When new family members join Growmotely, they are informed during their onboarding process that all company meetings are open. Rudolph De Kock – one of our software engineers (based in South Africa) – showed up to the Brand and Marketing Team’s regular Monday get-together during his second week on the job; the engineering team’s daily stand-up meeting frequently has a number of ‘guests’ in the peanut gallery; and anyone is allowed a seat at the table at Growmotely’s weekly leadership meeting. This is a policy that we’ve created to further embody our value of transparency; we want everyone to be able to obtain the visibility they desire. We want decisions to be made not behind closed doors, but in spaces without doors.
The praise and gratitude we give to individual team members is delivered to every single person in our company.
Although championing the value of transparency and candour is often done in the context of potentially negative or tricky things that humans – leaders included – might feel compelled to hide, here at Growmotely, we apply it in the realm of giving praise and expressing our gratitude as well. We have a ‘kudos system’ whereby we can express our gratitude towards any team member at any given point in the week, and every Saturday, every message that was sent is included in an email that goes out to the entire company. We staunchly believe that this ‘gratitude transparency’ boosts us all and embeds within it a natural incentive to consistently give a helping hand to team members when they might need it.
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So. Why does any of this matter? And what is it – precisely – that this value of transparency adds to our company culture? If these things aren’t already obvious, I’ll spell it out just a bit more.
When it comes to our leadership team here at Growmotely sharing specific company numbers every month: this cultivates trust and it also – when cash flow is tight – is an invitation for all team members to step up and do what they can to make any extra efforts that are possible in their area of the business. When it comes to team members speaking up if they feel they are not in the right role for them: now we have the opportunity to find a 100% aligned match for the role in question (which we have now done in the aforementioned case), and we have the opportunity to find a 100% aligned match for the team member in question. All boats rise. When it comes to all of our company meetings being ‘open’: we are allowing team members to learn as much about what is happening in the company as they feel called to. This ‘cross-pollination’ raises everyone’s game. And – finally – when it comes to the practice of being transparent with our gratitude: we are all able to see across the board how we’re impacting each other in positive ways, and this keeps us motivated and inspired.
‘Transparency and candour’ is but one of our company values, and here at Growmotely, we’re mindful that how this ‘plays out’ in real life is subject to change and evolve as we grow and learn and add new people to our team. Our values are here as guideposts for us internally – and as lighthouses for those externally, so that we are sure to attract the most aligned people into our ecosystem. As companies grow and scale, practices and values – of course – can and do evolve. We are thrilled to share our transparency journey with you today, and we look forward to sharing it with you in the future – as it evolves – as well.