The Done Right Podcast
Episode 5

Open Up: How transparency unleashes your team’s success

Welcome to the Done Right podcast. I'm Jordan Staples and over the past decade and a half, I've been studying how people live successful and satisfying lives, both in and outside of work. And here's what I've learned. People in the workforce who are successful and satisfied are the ones that show up, pitch in, and make an impact in their companies. They are the ones who know how to get stuff done but do it right. So our mission for this podcast is to deliver insight and inspiration to fuel the way you show up at work today. 

I'm here in Lehi, Utah at Workfront headquarters, and I'm grateful you are here to join me for today's episode, open up: how transparency will transform your team's success. 

So there is a real fear in me every time I go to prepare for an episode of this podcast, and even every time I sit down to record it. I'm experiencing it now, so I'm going to talk about it. And that is that my fear is that we are going to talk about principles and concepts that are nice, in theory, for us to do in our careers and as leaders that, in theory, it would be great if we could do something about it.

I don't enable you to do anything with the principles that we talk about, because it happens a lot. It happens a lot where we share stuff, and we read stuff, we learn about stuff, whether it's in business school, it's from our peers or mentors, from books about leadership, all the time thought leaders give us really great insight and data and research-backed insight into what we need to be thinking about with our businesses and with our teams and the ways that we lead. 

But it's so difficult to actually implement, and apply, and operationalize a lot of the things that we hear about; we consume way more than we can actually put into practice. And that's like a phobia for me, like I just want this to be a very useful few minutes for you so that you can walk away ready to do something, if that's what you choose to do. Where we’ve got some real concrete meat for you to hopefully be helpful for you in your role. 

The Speed of Trust

So this topic that I want to bring up--this is nothing against the topic, I absolutely appreciate the insight and the research that Steven M.R. Covey, the son of the famous Seven Habits author Stephen Covey, his son wrote a book called The Speed of Trust which is an absolutely phenomenal book. I'm saying that: I've only read most of it, so I'm assuming that the last 30 percent of the book is just as good as the first 70 percent. Just gotta be honest, I feel like I'm in a confessional today. 

But this is what he talks about with trust, and this is certainly data-backed I think to the degree that you can measure trust, but let me just give this a shot and refresh your memory if you're familiar with this concept of the “speed of trust”. So he says this: 

“in today's global marketplace, “speed” is everything and in my experience, one thing creates speed more than anything else, and that one thing is trust. It's the hidden variable that changes everything. Speed of trust helps reduce costs, increase productivity, enhance innovation, improve collaboration, increase value...” 

And he shares this quote from Francis Fukuyama who said, “widespread distrust in a society imposes a kind of tax on all forms of economic activity. A tax that high trust societies do not pay.” And he talks about businesses, like how much money do we waste on redundancy, and bureaucracy, and politics, and fraud. And there's research to back all this up, and again this sounds like I'm minimizing the case he's making for the value of trust, and I absolutely am not. 

I think the thing that I have seared in my brain is the graphic that he has in the book that talks about as trust increases in an organization, speed increases, and costs decrease. I love everything that I'm learning from Steven about this concept of infusing trust into my organization, and he does give some really great tactics. But I want to dig into this with you a little bit in a way that made sense to me and is a principle that I'm learning about leadership, and I wanted to share it with you.

Transparency at SalesLoft:

So back a couple of years ago, a friend of mine shared the story of SalesLoft, it's a tech company, been around for I think seven or eight years, and some of you may know of SalesLoft, or use SalesLoft today. But their founder and CEO, Kyle Porter, he wrote essentially a summary of how they've been successful because, in 2014, SalesLoft went from two hundred thousand dollars in annual recurring revenue, to over four million dollars in annual recurring revenue. That's 2,000 percent growth. That's pretty darn good. Now, we've seen growth rates like that in various successful startups. Those are certainly the exception, not the rule. But that does happen. That absolutely does happen, but that's not going to happen by accident. So the really cool thing is that Kyle broke down how they became successful, how they grew at that rate. And I thought it was very insightful, and it's going to connect us to maybe how we can actually infuse trust into our organizations. 

So what I want to do is I'm going to just read some highlights from his summary. Just so you can kind of soak in what was happening, boots on the ground in the organization, to make that kind of growth possible. So first thing is in his report he says that “we attribute all of it [this 2,000 percent growth] to the harmony of how our team works,” he says, “We pride ourselves on complete transparency.” And they have a one-page strategic plan that is available for the entire company to view, and it’s used as a focal point in their core meetings to guide the rhythm of the meeting, and he goes into how they get all this stuff done. And he talks about this rhythm of meetings, but I think it’s really funny because there's a lot of us today that are trying to really reduce and eliminate meetings as much as possible, but just hang with me for a second because I want to give you a quick overview of this rhythm, of this complete transparency that his organization has to get stuff done, to help them get stuff done. 

So he says, “we looked to Death by Meeting…” this is a book by Patrick Lencioni “...in order to get this accomplished.” These are the meetings that they routinely have: one is a daily stand up, two is weekly leadership tactical meetings, three is a weekend update that is sent out to the entire company, four is a monthly leadership strategic meeting, five is a monthly company update, and six is the quarterly leadership offsite. Ok, so a bunch of meetings. Right? You probably do many of those meetings as well. But let me give you just a couple of insights into the kind of behind the scenes that he shares in his document that he wrote up. For example, their daily standups: 

“At 9:40 every morning each team: marketing, development, sales, customer success, they huddle on their own for a stand-up meeting that lasts 10 minutes. And they're known to even get that thing done early, whereas you guys that are familiar with the standup concept, everyone answers three questions: What did you do yesterday? What are you doing today? Any roadblocks?”

So everyday team members are being transparent about what they did, what they're doing, and any issues that have come up with them. 

“Ten minutes later, at 9:50, after that’s done, the leaders of each group huddle with me, the CEO Kyle Porter, and roll up any concerns or issues from the meeting. This allows me the opportunity to learn everything that's going on with the company from the bottom up.”

Now many of us. Might react and think, this guy seems a little paranoid, this guy seems like he's micromanaging maybe a little bit...wanting to know everything, every day from these stand-ups, well, I’ll let you be the judge. I think other people may think the opposite, they might think this guy's brilliant. But let me give you just a couple more insights into this rhythm that they have in their company. So another thing they do is that every week they have a tactical leadership meeting. And in this tactical leadership meeting--it's a 45-minute meeting--they start off with a lightning round, it's essentially this stand up for leadership where everyone kind of says what's on their plate for the week, and they note any issues that come up that they want to discuss further. 

They review metrics and they note anything they want to discuss further, and they've spent probably 10-15 minutes doing that before they get to the heart of the meeting, which is to address tactical agenda items. So you've reviewed and brought up some of the issues you want to discuss, that's probably going to be in this tactical agenda meeting, and the leadership decides what they want to hit first because the point of it is that they can solve these tactical issues within this meeting. They're going to dig into it and solve it within the meeting. 

As strategic topics come up, they actually put those aside. They take note of them, but they put it off. And they take note of decisions and actions that have been committed to, make sure they all talk about cascading those messages to their teams if there's anything to communicate. and they're done; a 45-minute meeting every single week. The leadership team does that. So as I implied, they also do a monthly leadership meeting which is strategic. And they address those strategic topics because they talk about how you do not want to spend your weekly tactical meeting, all four of those in a month, to tackle one strategic rock--if you will, a roadblock--because that's going to interrupt the course of your business. So they're very deliberate about keeping the ball moving forward and ensuring that they're not slowing anything down. 

Also every week, the CEO sends a “weekend update” to everyone in the company, sharing the scorecard of the company: sales update, marketing updates, stuff about culture, and next week's to do's if you will. And every week that's sent out. So then it goes on and talks about the monthly company updates, and the quarterly leadership update where they essentially rebuild those one-page strategic plans and plan out their meetings, and that's kind of their rhythm of how they get stuff done. 

I learned about this a couple of years ago, but as I'm learning about Kyle, and what he did at SalesLoft, the only thing that comes to mind is that transparency empowered these teams--cross-functional teams, individual teams, individual players--to succeed, because at the end of the day this company did very well. 

So this concept of trust, and when we hear of concepts like this--and if we have trust, you know it's going to speed up our organization, and it's going to lower costs, and I completely believe in that--there's a lot of things that we need to do from a people management standpoint to infuse trust in the organization. Certainly, I don't believe that transparency is the solution to all things.  But it is absolutely an asset, and I would say something that [transparency] is flying under the radar in operationalizing trust, in operationalizing some of the things that we talk so frequently about. 

I want to end by reading a couple of quotes, one of them is from Stephen M.R. Covey where he said: 

“One time I hired a guide to take me fly fishing. While we were fishing, he asked me what do you see? I see a beautiful river. Do you see any fish? He said no. And then he put on a pair of polarized sunglasses, and suddenly everything looked dramatically different and I could see through the water. I could see the fish. A lot of fish. Suddenly, I could see enormous possibilities. I could not see before. The fish were there all along, but until I put on the glasses they were hidden.”

So as you are thinking about how you want to level up, and you need to see certain results, and you want to infuse or build the culture of your team, whatever your lens is, take a hard look at transparency because your best next action for today is going to be: pick one of these five key areas of transparency to improve on today. 

5 Key Areas of Transparency:

1. Vision Transparency 

The vision for what you are trying to accomplish, “the why”, must be transparent, clear, consistent, and well understood in and outside of your organization. 

2. Objective Transparency 

You just gave them “the why”, but they've got to get really clear on what you're actually trying to do. Clarity on what success looks like is absolutely critical. Otherwise, your team members, they're not going to know that what they do really matters. 

3. Team Transparency

Team activity does need to be transparent. And there's a lot of reasons why team activity needs to be transparent, but your folks do not want to wonder what their team members, their peers, their colleagues in a different organization, what they are doing when it comes to work that is impacting them. They want to be armed with insight and information that they can take action on. So be transparent about what your team's activity is so that folks have context for how you're progressing, and the work you're putting into executing certain projects in your organization. 

4. Task Transparency

Very similar to the previous two. You need to have clarity of expectations or requirements for each activity. You do not need to be vague. This is not micromanagement. This is not telling people how to do their job. This is being very crystal clear on expectations and requirements, if you have them for the activities that they are engaging in, because otherwise they are going to do their best at trying to make it happen, and we don’t want to have them waste their time if they are off of what you're expecting. 

5. Customer Transparency

You could say maybe results transparency, or something like that. But, you need to know and have transparency into how your customers--those that you serve--feel about what you're doing for them, what the final product is--the service. Are they delighted, or are they disappointed? That sort of accountability, or accountable transparency means understanding how your work contributes to customer satisfaction. And that is going to improve the happiness and satisfaction of your employees; to know that what they're doing is making that impact. I think that how I am communicating this, is that it is just this warm fuzzy feeling that they're happy. But here's what it does--and this here is what every one of these five areas does--and that is that it empowers everyone to take action.

It's useful. When you share the right information, it becomes useful. And you heard that in the SalesLoft case study, they were focused on solutions and action, and were very deliberate about staying focused on doing that with that rhythm. But it only could happen if everyone was generous and transparent about what they were doing. 

You guys need to look up Jodi Glickman. She is brilliant, and I've learned some things from her and from her content about generosity and transparency, and how that can foster relationships of trust in your organization. But let me just add this to what we've covered today. 

And that is that nothing is as fast as the speed of trust. Nothing is as profitable as the economics of trust. And nothing is as central to leadership as relationships of trust. And I believe the way to actually operationalize and execute on that--and I'm not taking credit for that, that's from Steve M.R. Covey--is transparency. 

Today’s next best action: 

Pick one of the five key areas of transparency to improve on today. 

Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. You can find more information about the topic and continue the conversation at donerightpodcast.org. The Done Right podcast is hosted by me, Jordan Staples, the show is produced by Workfront. Our team includes Jeremy Tippetts and Marc Hansen. 

Thanks for listening. And if you like what you hear, rate and review the show, it helps other people find us. See you next time.