Transparency killed the communication hurdle

By Felicity Biasi

Having worked for AchieveForum for the past 15 years in some capacity I have certainly seen a fair amount of organisational change. Luckily I am someone that enjoys change and looks for opportunities each time it comes knocking, but I have learned that change is not for everyone. I have struggled over the years losing great colleagues and friends that weren’t so comfortable with that shift in strategy or new direction.

Right now AchieveForum is going through the biggest change we have ever seen. Our leadership team is completely shaking up the way we work with clients and run the business and yet we seem not to be shedding people who are not on the journey with us. This got me thinking about the why, what was different this time, why aren’t people running for the hills and why are there no disgruntled whispers behind closed doors.

Leadership transparency

This all clicked listening to today’s leadership call. Yep, you heard me right — listening to today’s leadership call. Every other week the global leadership team jump on a 2-hour call. This is a call that would normally happen behind closed doors, but last year our CEO made the decision that the leadership team needed to be more transparent. So with that he opened up the weekly call to the whole organisation to listen into. Now I am eavesdropping on everything they talk about and I am really enjoying it. So back to my thought, it clicked today that it’s the transparency that is retaining people and keeping us all on track. It’s not because I can get the inside goes on, who said what, and what people think. It’s the fact that I can hear the vulnerabilities of my colleagues and listen to the courageous points they are making. I can hear them put their head on the line for the frontline people. I can hear the discussion that leads to a decision and all of this eliminates all of my doubt.

Building trust

Doubt is massive in an organisation, and normally because no organisation ever gets communication right for everyone. Each time something is announced by leadership the questions bounce around in your head, what are they thinking, did they think this through, did they think of what I am dealing with, did they quickly make a decision without thought, or did they analyse all the options. I would normally have no way of knowing this, and unless I had a direct line to a leadership team member I would just follow the rules until one day it all became too hard and walked.

Without doubt and with honest transparency, well nothing gets more honest than listening to a live call! I have a far better chance of taking on the change, new direction, or crazy strategy knowing why the decision was made and the lengths that the team went to to get that decision right.  Even on the off occasion when something fails, there is no finger pointing or quick assumptions; rather there is honest empathy knowing the team had it tough making the decision and executing on it and knowing that they were probably feeling far more miserable about it then I was.

Moving from co-operation to collaboration

I also now love how close it has made the organisation feel. You can now see people online working late or early so that we can cross time zones and really connect with each other on phone or video calls rather than sending long winded painful emails expecting an inspired and creative response. No one is inspired or creative on email, you need real human connections and words when you are going through this much change. The change is not a bad thing.  People are more invigorated and stepping out of our comfort zones, I believe simply because leadership are so why wouldn’t we as well. This has allowed me to be more flexible, working from home, taking breaks in the middle of the day when having early and late calls. Who would have thought work life balance would have come from a little open call each week?

Even crazier, I now listen to the calls and email the leadership team after the call to offer suggestions to help them get to a solution. A few weeks back I even put my hand to lead a global project after one team member mentioned there was an issue but had no idea or time as to how to solve the problem or execute on it. There I was quickly writing a rough solution and emailing it onto him. He loved it and the wheels are in motion.

Humanising leadership

Amongst all of this it has made the leadership team real people, with real struggles just like me and shows they are all out there doing the best they can in that moment. I am so proud to be a part of this organisation that has the guts so be that raw and vulnerable in order to make this place a great place to work for staff and an even better one to work with for clients.

Watch our CEO, Scott Bohannon’s video on the role of transparency and trust.

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