You are starting a team meeting with your direct reports and all is silent as they await your direction. You proceed to welcome them followed by the question “How are things coming along with the strategic goals?” The awkward silence persists with the exception of pages ruffling in the back corner of the room. Sound familiar?

I have been part of many meetings where similar scenarios play out. At the end, either the leader:

a) walks away feeling great as “if it ain’t broke, nothing needs fixing”;

b) blames employees for lack motivation; or

c) questions what they could do differently in generating proactive discussions.

In most cases, c) is the root cause of the lack of team and leadership transparency. This article provides a new perspective on evolving to more transparent meetings, on both sides.

Why is transparency important? In a recent article in Business in Vancouver titled “Peer to Peer: Transparency Keeps Companies Out of the Hot Seat” there was consensus amongst the three interviewed that a lack of transparency negatively impacts innovation, engagement and trust.

Considering the fact that many baby boomers are on the verge of retirement and Millennials are waiting at the door step, transparency has never been more important. They come from world where global exposure and socializing is at their finger tips. Considering that, if you are not transparent in your practices, how could trust, innovation, profit and employee engagement be impacted?

A simple step forward is to facilitate team discussions that enable open and honest discussions. Steps include:

1) Send an Early Agenda: State the problem you are trying to address clearly and identify the need for support. Give employees time to consider what you are trying to achieve.

2) Create a Vulnerable Opening: Let your team know the importance of their input and the impact it could make. Emphasize that you don’t have the answer. The more open and authentic you are, the more open they will become.

3) Divide and Conquer: Divide your team into smaller groups. They are likely not used to speaking openly and regardless of your openness; the light bulbs likely won’t switch on the first time.

4) Dig Deep into Root Cause Analysis: Have them evaluate the problem. Tools such as a Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats or Gap analysis can be used to identify root causes. Possibly leave the room.

Meaningful discussion should prevail as there is a lower perceived risk in doing so. As each group presents their findings, listen actively. Giving them the power to control the discussion goes a long way in building trust and a commitment to team work.

5) Decide: Once agreement is reached on the possible root causes, brainstorm solutions. Vote on the best ones through a democratic process.

6) Take Action: Weigh-in leads to greater buy-in. Thank the team for their input and ensure follow-up actions are clear.

Employees want to be part of the evolution in achieving results. Transparency is a key pre-requisite to team performance.

Kwela’s Team Optimization Workshop builds a foundation of high performing teams by enabling team transparency.

Glen Sollors, Senior Consultant