Keeping Objectives on Track: Four Tips for Fostering Transparency

Group of professionals meet and engage data on whiteboard.

If you’re in a management position, whether C-suite, supervisor, or project manager, you rely on others to help you achieve goals. To help ensure objectives stay on track, you need to know when they become at risk and why. Fostering a culture of transparency with your team will provide access to critically needed information as early as possible. Here are four tips to help you get the full story from your team.

Talk to the “right” people 

For each major objective, establish a list of critical stakeholders; those who have the highest level of influence over your desired outcome and are vested in its success. I encourage you to cast your net wide when evaluating who should make this short list—your top influencers may be multiple levels removed from you.

Establish a communication cadence 

Meet with each of your critical stakeholders one-on-one (preferably face-to-face) every week. This should be a quick 30-minute meeting to keep a pulse on the “goings on.” If your list of stakeholders is long, meet with your top three influencers or advocates every week and the remainder every other week. I prefer to keep these meetings unstructured, but you should adapt this to your style. Just keep in mind, this is an exercise in establishing trust and maintaining a forum for open dialogue.

Don’t rely on one person for information 

By recommending this, I don’t intend to send you on a mission to ferret out traitors. Besides, the truth is rarely that clear cut. Each one of your stakeholders has varied experience, knowledge and perspectives. You need those different perspectives to paint a full picture of what’s really happening—especially if things start to veer off track. Don’t lose a level of depth by relying on just one viewpoint.

Make failure safe

Most of us have lofty goals with a path to completion that is varied and complex. Setbacks are inevitable! Now that you’re talking to the right people at the right time, steer the conversation toward impediments to success and don’t chastise them for sharing bad news. They may be less forthright in the future and you won’t be able to help your team find a solution if you don’t know what problems are plaguing them. 

Relying on others to champion and execute your vision is challenging but necessary in leadership roles. Some things will take longer than planned, an assumption or dependency will fall through, or a work product will come up short of expectations. In fact, all three of those things could happen multiple times! But you can’t help your team navigate these challenges if you don’t know they exist. Promote transparency by establishing regular, open and honest dialogue with your key influencers and advocates. They may not always need or want your help, but if and/or when they do, you can effectively participate in reshaping your desired outcomes.