Accountability

Transparency: Are You Actively Aware?

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By Stephanie Angelo, High Stakes Mastermind Groups and Roger Wolkoff, All About Authenticity

Part 2 of a two-part series.

Definition

You would think that defining transparency would be easy. Like many things, it depends on context. The Oxford dictionary tells us that one definition is “having thoughts feelings or motives that are easily perceived.”

It’s not what you might think it means, and it’s not all positive. But maybe you already knew that. Consider this from John Hall:

“When you’re transparent, you invite trust by revealing that you have nothing to hide. You establish yourself as an honest, credible person in the eyes of others. The prospect of being open and vulnerable may make you nervous, but the digital revolution has made transparency a matter of survival.” Source: LinkedIn “Expose Yourself: The Importance of Being Transparent”, Feb 3, 2014, John Hall

Interestingly, if you Google “transparent” or “what does it mean to be transparent” you’ll find that a number of people deem transparency as a negative trait.  To them it means not having a filter and being poor liars.

However, as Hall points out, transparency predominantly is a good trait. We concur and to us that means allowing oneself to be read by others, giving others the opportunity to censor inner thoughts and feelings.

It pays to be transparent up front, not only in our personal relationships, certainly in business relationships as well.  For example, in 2000 Microsoft reached a $97 million settlement in a lawsuit that was originally filed in December 1992.  Microsoft had hired workers as temps, kept them for a year or more and did not provide them with regular permanent employee benefits.  A costly lesson, to be sure.

 

Transparency and Fear

Consider the role fear plays in transparency. “Transparency is moving past fear so we can truly connect with others…” So says Sam Andrews, who dubs herself The Creative Minimalist (theminimalistcreative.net). We think about fear every day. What we do with our fear, how we face it, that’s the true rub right there, isn’t it?

“Transparency is all about decluttering the fear that separates us from other human beings.” More wisdom from Sam, whom we believe is onto something with her “decluttering” metaphor.

Talk about fear – true fear; in 1982 The Chicago Tylenol Murders were a series of poisoning deaths resulting from drug tampering in the Chicago metropolitan area.  The drug’s manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, received highly positive coverage for its handling of the situation.  They didn’t hesitate to be transparent, take ownership, and action. An article in The Washington Post said, “Johnson & Johnson has effectively demonstrated how a major business ought to handle a disaster”.   Co-writer Stephanie remembers “Even though it was someone’s deliberate action to access the drug and lace it with Cyanide, and not Johnson & Johnson’s doing, they took immediate responsibility”.

Transparency is not hiding behind something from something, or fear.

 

A fitting story

When transparency works, it works well. Early in his career, co-writer, Roger had a manager who personified transparency. Everyone knew where Sue stood on business decisions, her thoughts on new products, and opinions on marketing. She was the same with her direct reports. Anyone could tell within minutes of meeting Sue that transparency was part of her character, her authentic self.  It had a positive and lasting effect  on those who worked with Sue.

As a Mastermind group facilitator, Stephanie notes that we also see transparency at work in Mastermind groups. We make the case that the success of the group and its participants depends on the individual contributor’s willingness to be transparent not only with the group, but also with themselves. The two go hand-in-hand. Typically, in a Mastermind, you ask the group to help you and hold you accountable for actions you otherwise might not do. The very nature of the group asks us to stretch ourselves, push our limits, and put ourselves into often-times uncomfortable situations. When we venture outside our comfort zones, we are being transparent, and we are being vulnerable.

Transparency is trust. We think, “When I open up to you, I trust that you won’t hurt me”. And the same is true when you are open with me. The social construct of transparency is like a bunch of people standing around the pool waiting for the first one to jump in and report back how the water is. We’re happy when someone makes the first move. We’re willing to follow them when they tell us, “come on in, the water’s fine.” It’s the same when we interact with others. We’re happy when someone makes the first move. We gauge how much they’re willing to open up before deciding how much we’ll reveal about ourselves.

 

Call to Action

What are we to do with all this information then when it comes to transparency?

Two specific actions to add to your toolkit:

  1. Social contract: Honor the Social Contract; the implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits.
  2. Legal contracts: Honor them. In cases, like Microsoft as an employer, or you, as a consultant, contractor, employee, or whatever you may be, do the right thing. Skirting around the law is bad for everyone.

At the end of the day, the notion of transparency comes down to choice. How much you give is what you can expect to get. We’re not saying it’s easy. However, nothing worth having is ever easy is it?

 

Stephanie Angelo SPHR, SHRM-SCP helps companies attract, train and retain employees with keynotes and training focused on company culture of Traction not Transaction. To bring Stephanie to your organization or event, visit https://StephanieAngelo.com , email Stephanie@StephanieAngelo.com , or call (480) 646-2400.  Have questions about joining High Stakes Mastermind Groups?  www.HighStakesMastermimdGroups.com

Roger Wolkoff will help you discover how emotional intelligence paired with authenticity improves communication, ups productivity, and positively influences culture. Visit https://www.rogerwolkoff.com to connect with Roger and work with him to help you deliver results and grow your bottom line. Roger is a keynote motivational speaker and author from Madison, Wisconsin.

 

Sources:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Tylenol_murders&ved=2ahUKEwiu3MrOtIrkAhUfHzQIHTC_BucQFjAFegQIBRAB&usg=AOvVaw2TLwUTY80hXNVP-90fXwc2

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/13/business/technology-temp-workers-at-microsoft-win-lawsuit.html&ved=2ahUKEwjr14iXtYrkAhV0OX0KHa-jAakQFjAGegQIAhAB&usg=AOvVaw3zVwutV98MJCCd9AP3BaR7

 

 

Accountability

Transparency: Active Awareness

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Photo by Mark Solarski

By Stephanie Angelo, High Stakes Mastermind Groups and Roger Wolkoff, All About Authenticity 

Part I of a two-part series. 

 

“Can I share something with you?”

“I need to get this off my chest.”

“I need to tell you something I can’t tell anyone else.”

Depending on the context of the situation, and your personality, these questions can be either innocuous or terrifying. Let’s say it’s your closest friend and it’s just the two of you sitting in a private corner of your favorite bistro. In this case, you may think the questions are on the harmless side.

Now imagine that the person asking the question is a co-worker and it’s just the two of you on your way to a meeting. Re-read the questions in this context and note how you react, paying attention to your feelings. Startling? Awkward? Uncomfortable?

Context Matters

The concept of transparency is at the heart of each of the questions. We face conversations and situations involving some degree of transparency every day. The issue is, then, what level of transparency is appropriate, and when?

We find at the two ends of the transparency spectrum complete closure and total openness. Some people are open books, while others remain complete mysteries. And everything in between. Therefore, transparency may be straightforward on the one hand and more demanding on the other.

Which leads us to time and place; when and where transparency is appropriate. Let’s focus on the scenario that involves work and co-workers.

The Nature of Work and Transparency

Much writing exists about transparency character traits and leadership, particularly at work. Research tells us that “…trust must be mutual and reciprocal” (Bandsuch, Pate, Thies – 2008). Where does that leave us in today’s workplace? First, communication is critical. Although we seemingly drown in an ever-flowing river of words and information, words matter. How we use them matters more.

But where do we draw the line when it comes to being transparent in the workplace? There is an appropriate amount of information which is necessary for us to do our work as well as build trust with colleagues.

What happens when we cross the line? Many of us are familiar with the acronym TMI – too much information. You likely have experienced someone holding up their hand to stifle the conversation when they have heard more than they are comfortable hearing.

What’s Considered Inappropriate

There is such a thing as too much transparency. We tend to think of this as over-sharing. Co-author Roger worked with a colleague, Sandy, who had issues with boundaries, especially with what information was appropriate to share. Sandy shared heart-wrenching personal stories in work meetings and hallway conversations. They were stories best saved for a close friend, or in some cases, a counselor’s office.

One-on-one conversations with Sandy not to share her personal stories in open work forums were not successful. She insisted that she was being transparent. She believed it was in the scope of acceptable behavior to tell what she felt where transparency stories, even though she received explicit requests not to. She thought she was connecting and “letting others in.”

Instead of building bridges, Sandy burned them. She misunderstood the concept of transparency and failed to consider personal boundaries. She did more harm than good. Her actions came at a cost to her health and work relationships.

What’s Considered Appropriate

Consider this situation and the role transparency plays. Let’s say that you and others belong to a group and that group has a facilitator.  There is an expectation that you and your fellow participants foster a culture of trust and transparency over time. It is the facilitator’s purpose to guide the group’s conversation and control the flow of ideas.

One more caveat: the facilitator is not obligated to share information about himself or herself. The facilitator administers the rules and guidelines of how the group operates. And it’s not necessarily their role to agree or disagree with a participant’s opinion.

There are two strong dynamics at play in this situation: boundaries and context. It’s natural in many cases for a facilitator to have personal role-based rules within the group. When you have a group that agrees to be transparent (like a Mastermind) and a facilitator whose role it is to abide by a different type of transparency, the participants and facilitator must agree to group boundaries and expectations.

Calls to Action

  • One takeaway is to be self-aware about whom you share with and what you share with them. Be selective about what you share, and with whom you are transparent. We don’t advocate non-transparency, rather we encourage selective transparency.
  • Another lesson is to be socially aware. Consider your audience. Whether it’s solely with another person or group of people. Look for signs or cues as you’re talking. Think about the effect what you’re saying has on the person or people in front of you. Also, think about occasionally asking the person or group if they’re comfortable with what you’re sharing. We all have different tolerances for what we consider appropriate and inappropriate information.
  • And lastly, consider time and space. The age-old advice that “there’s a time and a place for everything” holds when it comes to being transparent. Set boundaries. When you find that you’re at a loss for reading a situation, find a trusted friend or adviser to help you navigate these situations.

The Dalai Lama says, “A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” How true. The key to transparency is awareness.

 

This is Part I of a two-part series.  See Part 2 on Sept. 24, 2019.

 

Stephanie Angelo helps companies attract, train and retain employees with keynotes and training focused on company culture of Traction not Transaction. She facilitates Mastermind Groups for business owners who hunger for collaboration with other business owners to scale their businesses.  For company culture improvement visit www.StephanieAngelo.com  Business owners learn more at www.HighStakesMastermindGroups.com

Roger Wolkoff will help you discover how emotional intelligence paired with authenticity improves communication, ups productivity, and positively influences culture. Visit https://www.rogerwolkoff.com/ to connect with Roger and work with him to help you deliver results and grow your bottom line. Roger is a keynote motivational speaker and author from Madison, Wisconsin.

 

Accountability

Stay In-bounds with Accountability

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Photo by Annie Spratt

By Roger Wolkoff, All About Authenticity and Stephanie Angelo, High Stakes Mastermind Groups

People in the service industry and those who run appointment-based businesses know the value of a promise. At its simplest level, an appointment is a two-person contract. Both parties agree to arrive at a specified time to complete an agreed upon task or service. For example, when you make an appointment to see your doctor, you agree to show up at 10:00 for 30 minutes for medical treatment and advice. Your doctor also agrees to show up at 10:00 for 30 minutes to provide said treatment and advice.

Put differently, appointments are accountabilities. Both parties, service provider and service receiver, are accountable to each other and the outcomes. A service contract highlights two key areas: holding yourself accountable and holding someone else accountable.
Accountable means responsible or answerable. Do what you say you’re going to do. It makes you credible. It builds relationships. It builds trust.
One aspect of accountability we can overlook is what role boundaries play. For example, “When is my work solely my work and not open to being used by others?” More specifically, “If I create a work product or process for an organization in which I volunteer, and it makes my life easier, do I have an obligation to make that work product or process available to the organization? I fulfill my accountability to the organization when I perform my role, but beyond that, does a boundary exist to protect my proprietary process and product?”

And this is where things can get thorny. It’s necessary to set boundaries to confound any assumptions or expectations about what we presume when we enter into service (or accountability) to ourselves and others. It’s easy for emotions, personalities, and our sense of right and wrong to play into the narrative of expectations and outcomes.

At what point do others feel entitled to more than what we promise to deliver? There are situations where it’s easy for us to be taken advantage of and create unspoken accountabilities and assumed promises. In these cases, clarifying roles is essential.
Consider the other side of the coin, as well. Ask yourself, is it worth the fight or the effort to protect something on principle? Or is it easier, in the long run, to maintain a relationship, or control the conversation?

Think about a work situation. Let’s say, for example, that your job requires you to produce a project plan for your client and you agree to deliver the plan. Over time and as you learn more about the project, you don’t believe that creating a project plan is necessary or worth your client’s time. Your manager disagrees and reminds you that it’s part of the standard work products you are required to deliver, and you agreed to do the work. Six weeks later, you remain firm in your belief that doing the work is a waste of time and you still haven’t done the plan.

Did you break trust? In this case, yes. You were accountable for the work and promised to deliver it. Regardless of your belief in the necessity of the work, you made a promise and by not delivering, you broke trust. Interestingly, one antonym for “accountable” is “untrustworthy”.
The issue at hand here is the fact that this was a work-place situation. The manager had the right to request the product in question, in this case a project plan. Consider it “other duties as assigned.” However, when we’re speaking of a volunteer scenario, for example a Board of Directors, no such obligation for the volunteer exists. Not delivering may lead to disappointment, but it should never lead to discipline (that would only be possible in the case of a crime, such as theft).

Back to our doctor appointment example, Dr. Judith Ziol, a Chandler, Arizona Naturopathic physician says, “I make it a point to never, ever make a patient wait more than five minutes”.

If you want to build trust and credibility, do what you say you’re going to do. When you are in the position to request deliverables and fulfill appointments, you can set the stage by showing others that you are trustworthy by holding yourself accountable first.
There may not be easy answers. However, the simpler the social contract, the easier the accountability.

Roger Wolkoff will help you discover how emotional intelligence paired with authenticity improves communication, ups productivity, and positively influences culture. Visit https://www.rogerwolkoff.com/ to connect with Roger and work with him to help you deliver results and grow your bottom line. Roger is a keynote motivational speaker and author from Madison, Wisconsin.

Stephanie Angelo keynotes and facilitates workshops on Cultures of Learning, Strategic Thinking and Collaborative Accountability, in addition, she facilitates Mastermind Groups for entrepreneurs. Imagine what it’s like to be a business owner with a hunger for collaboration with other business owners who experience the same challenges you do. Stephanie will help you take the Silo out of Solo. Contact her at www.StephanieAngelo.com

Business Mastermind

What’s My USP? I’m OK with You Asking

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You’re shopping for a mastermind group. Did I say, “shopping”? Yes, and that’s OK. I always tell people that becoming a member of a mastermind group can be a big commitment because you are investing in yourself. At least you should be. It’s your future. Otherwise what you really want is a networking group or a club.

So, to ask me what my unique selling proposition (or points, as some call it) is – is totally OK with me. I’m going to ask you yours too.
Here’s what I think. They aren’t in any particular order and they are equally important.

Organized: As campy as it sounds without strong organizational skills I could not manage the different and very individualized client relationships I have. I’m on top of each person’s action plans and deadlines. I follow up and stay in contact with each person on those deadlines to the degree that they want me to. I also plan a plethora of logistics, phone calls, common emails, meetings and more. It’s front and back-end follow-up and follow-through.
Determination: I’m more determined to see my clients succeed and have exponential business growth than I am in mine – and I’ve very determined to grow my business. Imagine what that does for my clients.

Ethics: They are my life-blood. I do what I say and say what I’ll do. If for some reason I can’t fulfill a commitment I’ll tell you about it up front. But I will not make weak excuses. More often I will take the brunt of something that was not in my control. I’m loyal and have integrity. Hang out with me awhile and you’ll see. Be a client of mine and see how much effort I put into your success.

Role model: I’m on my clients and my mastermind group members about accountability. Doing their actions keeping their deadlines, follow through on commitments. That is my incentive for modeling all of those behaviors myself. One time I was seriously overwhelmed with a fantastic, but unexpected, project that had a very tight deadline. I was not able to put as much time into helping a client as her expectations had her wanting. I still feel sick about it to this day. I did what she asked just not to the degree she imagined. We should have set expectations in the beginning. Making sure that my clients see me modeling the same behaviors I expect from them is paramount to me. See the above paragraph on ethics.

Charitable:
We are all connected. Whether you think so or not. What happens across the street, or across the world, is still a part of the universe you and I live in and it matters. I give us much to charities as I’m able. It’s never as much as I want. As long as I’m doing what I can where I can, I know I’m making a contribution into our shared space.

There you have it. I guess you could call that my foundational message about myself. Hopefully you know me a little bit better and know what you will see in the way I live my life, care for my clients and run High Stakes Mastermind Groups.
Ask me what my unique selling proposition is – it’s totally OK with me. I’m going to ask you yours too.

Accountability Partners

Fear and the Entrepreneur

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Photo from Nordwood Themes – Unsplash

By Stephanie Angelo and Adrianna Huff

Adrianna once wrote, “I had been talking with #HighStakesMastermindGroups about signing up for the mastermind groups and getting my  real estate license for months, possibly years, but as my cursor hovered over the “Submit” button I was still full of fear. Thoughts like: Can I do this? Is this the right move?, What if I mess up?, ran through my head.”

According to Psychology Today,

Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger — if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them.”

Fear is a normal human reaction. It originally protected us from lion attacks, but is still present in our everyday lives. I’m not exactly running from wild animals in my home in the suburbs, so why do I (did I) feel fear in this situation? In reality, it is because I was jumping into an unknown situation.

According to an article from the Harvard Business Review, “How Fear Helps (and Hurts) Entrepreneurs”, for many entrepreneurs, fear is a constant companion. Not only do you have fear of losing business, but all of your employees could also be hurt if the business is not successful. However, if entrepreneurs get stuck in this fearful mentality, they may find a more challenging climb for their business.

So, that begs the question, what should an entrepreneur do? Have a healthy level of fear. Simple enough, below are a few suggestions.

  1. Reach out to peers in business or your fellow High Stakes Mastermind Group These individuals have either been in a situation of fear or are feeling fearful. Either way, a supportive and understanding peer advisor or colleague can talk you through possible scenarios and brainstorm situations. Sometimes the hardest part of entrepreneurship is being responsible for all of the decisions. Talking with a like minded individual can be powerful support.
    If fear is gripping you – this is not the time to lash out, make knee-jerk decisions, or be dishonest.  It’s the time to talk it through.  Help and compromise are there to be had. Remember your reputation could be at stake.
  2. Recognize the fear that you have and acknowledge the worst that could happen. Use this fear and understanding to propel yourself forward and push the business in a positive direction. By looking for all the potential issues in the company, you can fix these issues and greatly reduce the fear involved. Consider including steps to mitigate issues and fear in your High Stakes Mastermind Group goal plan.
  3. Power through. Sometimes fear can lead to paralysis by analysis. When there is such a fear of failure (or success for that matter), it can be easy to analyze over and over again. Instead of getting into this loop of analysis, preventing any actual work, make a decision and move forward. It is likely that most decisions can be modified and reversed if necessary.

Fear is a double edged sword. It can propel entrepreneurs to greatness, or it can prevent them from getting any work done. How do you handle fear?