It is wise to assume good intent of your colleagues. It is also wise to assume your colleagues may not all do the same for you. Being transparent can help remove any doubt that you are acting in good faith.
Transparency can be scary. It sometimes means weighing in sooner than you might otherwise be comfortable, with less information, and with unpolished thoughts. It often means taking a position and having to revise it later. But occasionally being wrong in front of others and owning up to it is precisely what allows us to be trusted as authentic.
Transparency is not a mythical state of being. It is a set of simple practices:
- Be responsive. At Facebook, in particular, being unresponsive is seen as very disrespectful. That doesn’t mean people get to hijack your schedule with any email they send. It means they will get a timely response that sets their expectations for when they can expect a full response. As a transparency bonus you may even find it helpful to share what work you are prioritizing instead.
- Be open. If you have concerns but wait until a conversation is almost closed to raise them it can surprise people and invite them to wonder if you have ulterior motives for derailing the progress of the group. Instead be open about what you are thinking even if it isn’t fully thought through yet. Just make sure you preface it with the fact that you are still thinking things through and may change. That allows others to understand and participate not only around the concern but also your mental processes.
- Be proactive. When you arrive at a position that impacts others they should ideally hear about it from you. I always tell people if I have feedback for them they will hear it from me first. Those who have worked with me for a while can likely vouch that I am as good as my word. That allows people to feel confident that if they haven’t heard from me then there is nothing new they need to know. No news really is good news.
- Be consistent. Few things create conspiracies faster than a message that is adapted for different audiences. When people invariably exchange notes and discover they were told different things their minds immediately jump to malice.
- Communicate at scale. Writing or speaking to larger groups is greater transparency not only because it extends to more people but because those people now all have mutual knowledge of your mindset.
When it comes to maintaining trust many people work hard to avoid mistakes. But mistakes do far less damage to trust than secrecy does.