360 Transparency

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Problem 1: Your people don’t work on your priorities.

Problem 2: Your boss dumps when they think they are delegating.

Solution: Build 360 Transparency

A Story

Hello Grace, good morning.

Good morning Ralph.

Grace, I have something I need you to do – we have this new product hitting the market as you know. Marketing is pushing us to get the customer support documents in place so they can be published at the same time as the product’s release. I know you have a lot going on, but could you get the XYZ product customer support documents organized and published onto our intranet page for marketing to pick up by Dec 5th?

Ok Ralph, I’ll sure give that my best shot.

Thanks Grace, I knew I could count on you.

Ralph heads back to the office pleased, thinking:

“I see that the micro-course on delegation really works. Grace understood exactly what I wanted to have happen and now we’ll get the XYZ product customer support docs ready and we’ll beat the release schedule. This is going to be a great win for our department.”

Grace heads back to the office stewing, thinking:

“The XYZ product is not as important as the five other products I support. How could Ralph dump on me like this? I simply don’t know how I could possibly get this done on time and I’m sick of working extra hours to do more and more. I’m going to prioritize as best I can and just see what happens, but I’m not going to sweat it if I can’t get to it.”

What Just Happened and Why?

Ralph thinks he delegated effectively. He now expects delivery of something by December 5th. Grace did not appreciate the delegation approach and she is not going to have this project done on time to meet Ralph’s expectations, probably on purpose.

What happened is that not only did Ralph delegate poorly, Grace did not trust Ralph enough to be transparent with Ralph about her workload and priorities. They do not have a culture of 360 transparency where not only are leaders transparent with followers, but followers are transparent with leaders.

How to Create a Culture of 360 Transparency

Mutual engagement and proper delegation cannot happen without 360 transparency, which occurs when the person receiving delegation is completely open and honest about their capacity, skill, timing, or other constraints.

The core benefit of 360 transparency is that the leader gains an opportunity to see the assignment through the eyes of the employee and to gain their perspective.

It is not easy for people to have 360 transparency. The culture must be one of trust and mutual belief in each other where people are not intimidated by hierarchical roles and vertical org charts.

Common reasons why people do not show 360 transparency in their relationship with their leaders.

Fear. People sometimes do not feel they can push back to force a prioritization discussion with their leader because the personal cost to them may be too high. Depending on the culture of the company, the individual’s personal culture, their prior experiences with leaders from the past, real fears, uncertainties, and doubts (FUD) tell them 360 transparency has great personal risk. Fear can range from not being considered for a promotion or not getting another opportunity all the way to the fear of being seen as a slacker and feeling at risk for potential termination.

Duty. Some people feel a strong desire and obligation to pull their weight in the organization. When work comes their way they tend to accept it regardless of their realistic capacity to accomplish it by reasoning that the organization has resource constraints and everyone must sacrifice. They want to be known as a team-player, they want to be asked to do additional work in the future, and they want the company to do well. They are willing to sacrifice for the organization out of a sense of duty to the greater good.

Loyalty. People in an organization tend to be more loyal to those closest to them. Relationships inside a person’s circle of influence are full of valuable give-and-take exchanges. If the leader asks a follower to do something that puts one of their other relationships at risk in any way, the individual may attempt to shield the work that exists as part of that relationship. Commitments to clients, even unauthorized commitments, can cause a person to not be transparent with priorities and workload.

Trust. Followers do not always believe that their leader understands their workload, their customers, their commitments or the real work that they do. What’s more, followers sometimes simply do not respect nor trust their leader to make good decisions or to represent them properly.

Creating an environment where people who work for you can be equally honest and transparent about the real work they are doing and how much of their capacity that work consumes is an essential leadership function in the modern working world. In a modern knowledge-worker environment the leader usually has no way of fully understanding their people’s true priorities or their people’s real capacity for work without regular and transparent conversation. Not understanding a follower’s priorities and workload routinely leads to making bad assumptions, which includes continuing to overload team members with work that may never get done. The result is deflated morale, lowered motivation, and mutual mistrust by leader and follower.

Both leaders and followers need to strive for openness and transparency in their relationships and make delegating a bi-directional mutually engaging exchange. Giving someone something that they have no capacity to do is in effect dumping and not delegating. It leaves a bad feeling for the person receiving the assignment and it sets false hope for the person giving the assignment.

The leader owns the responsibility to make the environment safe for 360 transparency.

The Revised Story

Hello Grace, good morning.

Good morning Ralph.

Grace, I have something I need you to do – we have this new product hitting the market as you know. Marketing is pushing us to get the customer support documents in place so they can be published at the same time as the product’s release. I know you have a lot going on, but could you get the XYZ product customer support documents organized and published onto our intranet page for marketing to pickup by Dec 5th?

I’ll sure give that my best shot. But, I think we should discuss my priorities. I know you are aware of the 5 other products I support and that each of them has a new release in January. As I forecast my work, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to get those done and do the XYZ product at the same time. I mean, I want to. The XYZ product looks really cool and interesting but I feel obligated to support existing revenue streams. How do you want me to re-prioritize?

Thanks Grace for telling me this – I totally did not connect those dots. Wow, we need to really think this through. Here’s what we’ll do, I’ll schedule a time for us to get together this week for a micro-planning/prioritizing session and we’ll tease out the details of the priorities together. For whatever falls below the cut-line we’ll have to then figure out what should happen to it. I have a feeling that the XYZ product is important enough that we might outsource the support for some existing product lines so we can focus your creativity on XYZ – but let’s prioritize first and I’ll then get a read on it from the executives.

The Results of the New Story Version

Ralph heads back to his office thinking:

“What are my options for freeing up more of Grace’s time? She’s my best person for new product support and the XYZ product has the potential to be a major revenue producer. We’d better get this right. Before I meet with Grace I’m going to check in with Clara [boss] to see what budget latitude we have for outsourcing some existing support stuff.”

Grace heads back to her office feeling good about working at this company. She thinks to herself:

“I really want to work on the XYZ product and I’m glad we are going to have this prioritizing session. I’d love to move some of these existing requirements off of my plate… Ralph’s a pretty good boss.”
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