Effective Communication: Be Transparent - Intro
September 20, 2021
by Greg Henson, President
Communicating well is hard, especially in the context of a global movement like Kairos. With students, faculty, staff, board members, therapists, mentors, and partner organizations spread out around the world, it could be easy for the work of communication to be all consuming. Organizations often address this challenge by attempting to increase the amount of communication. Even then, it seems there is always something that should have been communicated and wasn’t, someone that should have been included in a conversation and wasn’t, or some piece of information that was unintentionally excluded from a report.
Historically, at least in the schools I have served in or consulted with, when schools attempt to “communicate well” by simply increasing the amount of communication, these communication mishaps tend to eat away at trust within the organization and the impact compounds over time. Eventually, trust erodes to the point that people assume not everything is being shared. They assume that there is a “super special” group of “insiders” who have all of the information and, in order to maintain their power, that group intentionally withholds information.
This tendency and the resulting erosion of trust make sense. When “communicating well” is equated with “communicating everything,” the only way forward is to continually increase the amount of communication. That is, we tend to just say more things without reflecting on what we are saying and when we are saying it.
A failure to think critically about the “what” and “when” of communication results in an organizational culture wherein trust is built not by transparency and shared practices but by a belief that everything is being communicated – which is fundamentally impossible. There will always be more that could be said.
Within Kairos, strive to think more deeply about the “what” and “when” of communication because those aspects can have a profound impact on trust. It starts with a shared commitment to transparency and truth-telling rather than a commitment to volume.
You may ask, “Why is transparency so important?” or “Doesn’t transparency mean sharing everything?” Those are great questions. Let me begin by addressing the idea that “sharing everything” is not the same as being transparent.
When organizations have a goal to share everything, they tend to mean sharing more and more information about rather innocuous activities. They don’t actually mean sharing everything. For example, they might say, “We are obviously not going to share the important financial information and if we do it needs to be edited in order to tell a certain story.” or “We can’t share the bad news about our programs or enrollment.” The list goes on. Transparency is not the same thing as sharing everything because organizations don’t share everything – especially when they think it will have a negative impact.
Transparency is important because it is a commitment to sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly in a consistent, predictable, and equally accessible way.
Over the next few weeks, we will look more deeply at all of these concepts. We will talk about why transparency is so difficult, why it is important, and the various practices we follow in order to be transparent in our communication within Kairos.