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.

 

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.

Business Mastermind

Cooling Off From the Hot Seat

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Photo by Daniel McCullough

A friend of mine confided to me that she used to be in a mastermind group, but it simply didn’t work for her. Frustrated with the lack of dialogue and accountability, she left the group.  I asked her questions about her past experience and why she thought it went wrong.

She said that the way their group worked was you had a schedule assigned for when you would be in the “hot seat”. Their group met on a monthly basis and so once a month there was someone who had the hot seat. Her hot seat assignment was four months after she began the group.

She initially joined the mastermind group because she really needed help growing her business. She had a lot of questions and concerns about the direction she was going and choices she needed to make. She wanted to test out new ideas and she wanted to feel like she had somebody that she could talk to. As a new business owner, anxious to have a strong start, she wanted to be able to “pick the brains” of the other members and gain from their insights. She was prepared for the emotional investment that she was going to make in helping each person with their business needs because she had a lot to offer as well.

By the time she got in the hot seat the issues that she had initially come with, when she became a member of the mastermind group, had either fallen by the wayside because she simply was too overwhelmed to address them, or they had become bigger problems, or were initiatives she decided not to try because she was afraid she would fail.

When she finally did get her scheduled chance to be in the hot seat it was of minimum value. Certainly, it had some, but it had significantly diminished from the reason she got into the mastermind group to begin with.  Yet she felt like she had spent the last four months helping everybody else with their businesses – one person at a time.  Having to wait to be in the hot seat sounds a little bit scary. It doesn’t hold conversational value.

There are a lot of mastermind groups that operate that way. In High Stakes Masterminds we just find that we succeed better doing it differently.

It was my members that decided that they prefer to meet every three weeks on a rotational basis. It has worked extremely well for us.  It’s not too frequent contact, like every two weeks, and it’s not big gaps of time in between, like once a month.  Monthly meetings also require that the meetings go really long. Having a meeting every three weeks works really well because of the frequency and having only six members per group we are able to keep our meetings moving along at an efficient 90 minutes each meeting.  Listening to my clients offered a solution to this particular problem.

In our valuable 90 minutes everybody talks every meeting. I don’t call it the hot seat. I don’t personally like that term. But I do call it the “focus seat” and everybody gets a chance to be in the focus seat. In addition, everyone in the group also has time to give them feedback, thoughts, and ideas We have robust conversation around each person’s accountabilities and goals.

You have to shop groups and determine what works well for you. I know that my first group was a disaster for me because we met once a month. Everyone did have a hot seat opportunity, but the facilitator was also a member, and to be quite honest with you she failed in every way imaginable. That experience was a painful disaster. But it did propel me to a training program to become a mastermind facilitator. I’m doing it in what I feel is the right way for my avatar type clients.

How do you know if you’re an avatar type client for High Stakes Mastermind Groups? All it takes is a conversation, and I love having those with prospective members. If you’re cooling off from the hot seat idea learn if High Stakes is right for you.

I look forward to you being in the focus seat.

 

Accountability Partners

Confidence and Confidants

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Photo by Farah Kanaan, www.KeepExploring.co (High Stakes Mastermind Group member)

Do You Have Confidence and Confidants?

The subject of confidants came up in our #HighStakesMastermindGroups today, because within the groups we grow to have such a great deal of trust between members, that they really tell each other things that would not be said to anyone else.  They know that what they say stays in the room because everybody signs a confidentiality agreement. But it does go farther than that, the members of the groups develop really close bonds and they become very comfortable in their ability to tell each other things that they would not be able to say to anybody else.

As their leader (and observer) that feels great because I know that I’ve been the catalyst in bringing these people together that become so close to one another. It is a little different for me because I don’t confide in them, so they really don’t have a lot of knowledge about my own personal life – and it needs to be that way.  Although I feel very comfortable in the fact that if something really went ‘south’ and I needed them, I know they would be there for me.

Why it Matters

The journey to the top of your game, no matter what industry you are in, can be a very lonely one. Sometimes, it will seem like nobody really understands, from the professional challenges you face to the personal and social sacrifices that are sometimes involved with such a heavy time commitment.

As you climb the ladder, it’s important to build your personal network of support and confidants.

Confidants can help you in a number of ways. People that you meet in High Stakes Mastermind groups, for example, understand what challenges you’re facing because they are in the same positions and know those challenges to be true. Over time, a relationship and trust builds, which allow for the sharing of ideas and advice.

Confidants become even more important when you are self-employed because for much of the time, you’re likely working independently, or with your staff, without the aid of a corporate headquarters.

Often, this means that you have no peers to bounce ideas off of for solutions and strategies. Those you are working with are often not on the same level, so it’s a good idea to have confidants who are as successful and trained as you to discuss things with and to help you find solutions to unique problems.

Who Has Your Back?

One final argument for having confidants in a Mastermind group: because these people are often in other lines of work, they can become true confidants with nothing to gain from your industry secrets.  And they “have your back”.

I’ll never forget how a former mentor of mine once said that Mastermind groups are to grow “confidence and confidants” – and I am very confident that we have successfully done both.