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How To Practice Transparency While Still Being Professional

Written by: Melissa Dawn, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Transparency is a great trust builder, and trust is foundational to building high-performing teams.


That may sound simple, but putting it into practice can feel far from it. After all, we’re supposed to be professional at work. How do we uphold professionalism while practicing transparency?

There are 3 things I’m going to share with you here:

  1. Toxic “professionalism” and how it holds us back

  2. What workplace transparency actually means

  3. How to practice professional transparency

Toxic “Professionalism” and How it Holds Us Back


Toxic professionalism holding back what needs to be said in order to uphold a persona that we believe is expected of us.


This could mean holding back out-of-the-box ideas, not speaking up when you disagree or see a potential issue, hiding your interests for fear of stepping on toes, etc. It can also mean not speaking up when your workload becomes unmanageable, trying to hide feelings of overwhelm, saying everything is “fine” when it isn’t, and much more.


When we don’t say what needs to be said, needs aren’t met. That goes for human needs and organizational needs. From a human standpoint, it leads to burnout. From an organizational standpoint, it leads to a lack of engagement, project derailment, high turnover, low morale and productivity, decreased collaboration and creativity, and so on.


What Workplace Transparency Actually Means


Transparency means saying what needs to be said.


It’s a common concern that transparency can lead to oversharing, which would be unprofessional. If you have a close relationship with your coworkers and you often share personal details with each other, that’s great, but it isn’t a necessary part of transparency.


Instead, professional transparency can mean things like letting people know you’re going through a difficult personal time that may impact your focus. You don’t have to give details because the details aren’t what matters at work (nor are they anyone’s business). What matters at work is that you’re going through something human. You deserve some grace and understanding for that as a human being, and your colleagues deserve a heads up and the opportunity to support you if they can.


It can also mean speaking up when you have an idea or concern. Maybe it feels appropriate and you feel brave enough to speak up in a team meeting, or maybe you feel it would be better to share one-on-one. The point is, that you are transparent. You don’t hide what matters. You benefit from this because you’re finally dropping those heavy, outdated beliefs about what it means to be professional, and because you are finally bringing your full self into your work. Your organization benefits because they are finally getting the full strength of your brilliance and creativity.


How to Practice Professional Transparency


Holding back is such an ingrained habit that cultivating a new pattern demands conscious self-leadership and an intentional approach. Like any new habit, leaning into repetition and self-awareness will give you a leg up.


Here’s an exercise for you to try. It’s called the left-hand column technique, and it was created by Dr. Chris Argyris of Harvard Business School:

  1. Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle to create two columns.

  2. Think back to a recent meeting or interaction with a colleague.

  3. In the right-hand column, write down everything you remember saying.

  4. In the left-hand column, write down everything you remember thinking, but chose to hold back.

What comes out in that left hand is often really valuable stuff. It’s new ideas, different perspectives, foresight, and even boundaries those personal bounds that protect your energy, focus, motivation, and engagement.


Once you have your left-hand column, ask yourself, “What prevented me from bringing that forward? What do I gain from continuing to hold back?”


Then ask yourself, “What do I stand to gain from bringing some of that left-hand forward?”


Of course, there will be things in the left-hand that just don’t need to be said. If you remember thinking something like, “Is this person crazy?” or “That’s a strange haircut,” or even mentally revising your grocery list… those thoughts don’t need to be said.


But, if you remember thinking things like, “I’m not sure if our supplier can handle that in our time frame,” or “I might know a more efficient way to get that done,” or “I’d really like to help out with that,” or even “We’ve been in this meeting for an hour and I could really use 5 minutes to stretch and grab a coffee”... there’s value in that!


These things need to be said and practicing transparency is all about bringing that left-hand column forward.


Here’s how to bring do that:

  • Develop your inner leader to empower your confidence.

  • Practice speaking your truth in other areas of life if that feels less scary right now, so that you can eventually start bringing that practice into your work life.

  • Do the work to recognize your inner Saboteurs and take back control from them.

  • For some people, being transparent can feel a lot like public speaking, which is one of the most common and human fears. If this resonates with you, consider developing your public speaking skills as a way to get more comfortable with transparency.

  • When you catch yourself holding back, make it a habit to ask yourself:

“What fear is stopping me from saying what needs to be said?”

“What do I gain from continuing to hold back?”

“What possibilities would I open up by practicing transparency in this moment?”


The only thing we gain by holding back is maintaining status quo. If you’re ok with that, great. But, if you want more for yourself, your team or your organization commit to doing more. Not more of the same thing, but embracing more possibilities and ways of doing things.


Commit to more transparency. You have so much to gain by bringing more of yourself forward.


Follow Melissa on her Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and visit her website for more information.


 

Melissa Dawn, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Melissa Dawn is a renowned speaker, author, coach, and founder of CEO of Your Life. She is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), a Certified Team Performance Coach (CTPC) and Conscious Coach, Certified Master Practitioner of Energy Medicine with The Four Winds, and holds a Bachelor of Commerce. She is also the bestselling author of I Attract What I Am: Transform Failure into an Orgasmically Joyful Life and Business and was named one of Hubspot’s Best Coaching Services worldwide for 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.


Melissa guides others to drop their masks, reconnect with their core selves and put themselves firmly in the CEO seat of their own lives. She believes that what makes us different is how we bring the greatest value to the world and ourselves.

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