Transparency Equals Clarity

How Clear Communication Impacts Team Understanding and Agreement

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“Transparency Equals Clarity” (TEQC) is a management concept I have developed throughout more than 10 years of experience. The initial idea was formed while I was mentoring a new employee, helping her get acclimated to the broader team. I found that abiding by this principle of complete transparency and openness positively impacted her understanding of and agreement with team goals, which led me to expand the use of this method to include my full proposal team.

TEQC is defined as openness and honesty among everyone involved in a business relationship; there is a clear description of everyone’s values and the value they add to the team, which results in familiarity, friendship and trust. Managers who abide by this approach are ethical, committed, engaged with both employees and clients, and show vulnerability. Their honesty and openness with their team will encourage each member’s willingness to trust them in return, thus improving productivity, fostering camaraderie and solving problems more quickly. Some managers may see this as a risk, while others will recognize it as an opportunity to support personal and professional goals and practice engagement.

TEQC is not a theory but a process that needs to be thought out and planned before implementation. There are best practices to be used as guidelines during implementation, and the results are measurable through client and employee surveys after implementation.

Supporting Team Understanding of TEQC

Before moving forward with this management style within the larger team, managers must engage everyone on a one-to-one basis to ensure that each person understands the approach. This interaction should include answering any questions the team member may have regarding the concept as well as restating the manager’s need to remain open and honest.

After ensuring that everyone understands the approach, implementation of the TEQC process begins with the manager’s explanation of both the company’s annual goals and the team’s specific goals. This is important because the team needs to know that their manager is being truthful about what the company is working toward. This means that if the corporation has made it an annual goal to downsize a percentage of their employees, the team needs to know. If it has a goal to expand certain departments within the organization, they need to know. Communicating this type of information may be difficult since something like downsizing could result in a team member losing their job, but whenever I have been in this situation, I always offer solutions that give the team something to aim toward. This also allows for open and honest conversation among everyone to ensure that any solution is not a burden to any one individual.

So whether the corporate goals are positive or potentially discouraging, they will have a definite impact on the team and how they perform. Having a roundtable discussion with the team is a good way to communicate these goals and to encourage an open conversation in a safe space. Sending a follow-up email about a week later — once they’ve had time to process the information — has also provided me with good ideas and suggestions for future consideration.

If transparency is discouraged by company leadership and the manager is unable to share annual goals with the broader proposal team, it is even more important that the team-specific goals are structured in alignment with those annual goals. For example, if there is a goal to infuse more diversity and inclusion in the workplace, I would incorporate a team-specific goal of relevant, self-guided research and reading about these topics. In the past, I have provided a list of resources for team members to choose from and then, during a one-on-one meeting or a scheduled review, discuss what was learned from the reading. I have also encouraged individuals to seek out movies, documentaries or committees on important topics.

Now that the manager and the team have had a productive conversation regarding goals, it is the manager’s responsibility to assess the talents of the individuals on the team to learn how each can excel in their role. This task should happen outside a scheduled performance review and should focus on the person’s skills and interests.

Once an evaluation has been completed, each team member should be assigned tasks that will allow them to use their unique skills to help achieve the team’s goals. For example, if during the assessment, which should be a casual one-on-one conversation, a team member reveals she is a soccer player and enjoys playing a variety of sports, I would make her responsible for entertainment responses. Excelling at a task provides motivation to continue to learn, as well as a feeling of accomplishment, and it makes the team stronger.

Management Best Practices

Understanding the definition of TEQC and how to support a team based on that definition are only two segments of the complete approach. The following best practices aid with implementation as well as continued openness, honesty and trust.

  1. Managers must communicate to the team ideas, feelings and the efforts they are making to remain clear about what they can offer and how they can help. They should always be honest and open.
  1. Managers should interact with their team daily to reinforce individuals’ tasks, team goals and corporate goals.
  1. During their daily involvement, managers must listen to the team’s suggestions and concerns.
  1. A plan of action should be conceived that includes the implementation of tasks and goals and responses to suggestions and concerns.
  1. Follow-up with the team to record their progress and to encourage continued growth is a manager’s greatest tool for motivation.
  1. After follow-up, managers should analyze the team’s progress by revisiting the shared team-specific goals and determining if each was met or if future development is needed.

Using the TEQC concept within my team, I have seen an increase in deliverables and shortened turnaround times. I have employed client surveys to measure quality of and satisfaction with the final product, and responses have been overwhelmingly positive, as most clients appreciate continued improvement of deliverables and service. In addition, I recommend issuing a quarterly team survey to gauge job satisfaction and to address any concerns. I have found that team members are more willing to provide an honest opinion when responding to these surveys. Because of anonymity, they are more sincere when documenting their outlook and are more likely to voice their frustrations as well. However, their overall response to the implementation of TEQC is positive and well-received.

These tools have proven that understanding and implementing the TEQC management style can only improve the relationship between a manager and a team, if all have the willingness to be open, honest and trusting.

Patricia Schierbaum has more than 20 years’ experience planning, designing, developing, managing, and implementing compelling marketing campaigns and proposals that capture winning business opportunities. She is an effective, organized partner; an analytical, results-oriented, focused professional; and a decisive yet flexible leader able to effectively manage varying project and team dynamics.

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