Transparency in a Cyber World
In the past few weeks, we have seen the dangerous side of how hackers can unlock corporate secrets with a few keystrokes, creating radical transparency that led to some uncomfortable moments for a handful of corporate executives. Sony, which thought its secrets were safe and emails were confidential, was hacked. Amy Pascal’s vitriolic emails were exposed, and now the Sony co-chairman’s judgment is suspect, while her reputation is significantly impaired. This unfortunate situation for Sony and Ms. Pascal could have been easily avoided by following these simple rules In the past few weeks, we have seen the dangerous side of how hackers can unlock corporate secrets with a few keystrokes, creating radical transparency that led to some uncomfortable moments for a handful of corporate executives. Sony, which thought its secrets were safe and emails were confidential, was hacked. Amy Pascal’s vitriolic emails were exposed, and now the Sony co-chairman’s judgment is suspect, while her reputation is significantly impaired. This unfortunate situation for Sony and Ms. Pascal could have been easily avoided by following these simple rules:
Electronic Records are Not Secure – Whenever your write something, act as if all of the world were reading it. The easiest way to make sure that damaging material you have written will not go public is never writing it in the first place! Never assume even the most confidential email is truly confidential.
Transparency from Leadership Should Be a Core Value – Throughout the Sony crisis, much of what was going on behind closed doors seemed to sway and change with public opinion. Decisions were made, then reversed days later, such as in the showing of the film, “The Interview”. Davia Temin, writing for Forbes, noted, “In a crisis, one of a leader’s first priorities is to re-establish trustworthiness, trust, and then control… it is rarely advisable to waffle… such behavior does not engender the trust of employees, customers, shareholders, governments, or the public… the poor leadership during this crisis at Sony demonstrates that they have inherent flaws that need to be corrected within their corporate structure.” As Sony’s secrets were laid bare, leadership was less communicative publicly, fueling the image they had something to hide. The need was for greater openness and frankness
Invest in Cyber Security and Crisis Management – David Belden, a Master Vistage Chair, recently wrote about The Age of Transparency. He notes that companies are waking up to the reality that no security plan is foolproof . From hackers to angry former employees, if there are liabilities in your company closet, there is a credible risk of your secrets being exposed. Therefore, companies need to have effective crisis plans for if/when damaging information comes to light.
Transparency Starts with Open and Honest Performance Reviews – So, as a leader, how can you make transparency an asset and not a liability for your company? One field where transparency can be an asset is in regular employee feedback, both positive and negative, which ties into open and honest quarterly and annual performance reviews.
The Entrepreneurial Operating System is designed to ensure that your entire organization is more disciplined and accountable in executing your vision, gaining consistent traction, and advancing as a healthy, functional, cohesive team.
Praise in public, criticize in private.
When someone is meeting their goals, positives need to be acknowledged. Leaders should be generous with praise for employees when it has been earned. This is the “praise in public” part, and can certainly increase loyalty amongst your staff.
What about when things go wrong? As a leader, you need to deal with issues immediately, no more than a 48 hour window from when the incident occurred. Most issues should be able to be resolved in private, where expectations to correct behaviors are clearly established. If the problems persist, they need to be documented to establish accountability. There should be no surprises by the time quarterly reviews are given.
Transparency works both ways. Workers need to be transparent to management. When I start a session with a client, I always set expectations that I am going to be open and honest, and I expect the same from all participants. This can mean that some of the discussion can be heated, and it should be. Healthy conflict sits at the cornerstone of an effective, functional, cohesive team.
Team members have to be comfortable enough with each other to get issues on the table, without fear of reprisal. There needs to be an atmosphere where there is no holding back. When management and staff are open and honest, when they are transparent with each other, then, and only then, can real progress be made. A healthy work environment improves loyalty, and the reputation of the company is enhanced through transparency.
- Is there an open and honest relationship between management and staff in your business?
- Is transparency an asset in your company, or are there liabilities hidden in the closet?