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Book Review: Transparency Edge

First Sentence Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen, and Martha Stewart may have been just a few bad apples that fell from the tree, but the rest of the bunch must now suffer the critical eye of inspection.

Well it’s been a while since my last post, and this is another book review. Now, I hadn’t intended this blog to be a book review site, but given my twin addictions to Starbucks and Borders (which I’ve alluded to in past posts) it was inevitable that books were going to feature heavily.

Anyway, I recently picked up a book that isn’t actually ‘new’ as such – it was first published in 2003 – but the topic is just as relevant now as then. The book is Transparency Edge: How Credibility Can Make or Break You in Business by Barbara Pagano, Elizabeth Pagano, and Stephen C. Lundin. It caught my attention because, as a consultant, I have always been respected for what one of my past managers described as ‘intellectual honesty’ – the courage to tell a client that they are wrong, and the refusal to write a report that rubberstamped a decision I didn’t agree with. At times this has seemed a career limiting move, so it was interesting to see a book that highlighted the business advantages of honesty and transparency.

view: The authors identify 9 behaviours which they believe the most successful leaders exhibit. These behaviours – be overwhelmingly honest, gather intelligence, compose yourself, let your guard down, keep promises, deliver bad news well, say you’re sorry, watch your mouth, and don’t hold your applause – cover how we interact not only with staff, but with all stakeholders, and the book is full of examples of leaders who have applied the principles, and also of leaders who failed to. Whether you are an executive looking to strengthen your own reputation, or a coach who is looking for tools to use with your clients, the book describes a wealth of techniques, many of which will find their way into my own practice. Among my favourites are ‘hot seats’, which put a completely new slant on the phrase ‘360 degree feedback’: imagine sitting on a seat surrounded by your staff, peers and managers and inviting them to give open and honest feedback. It takes a courageous leader – but that is exactly what this book is trying to create – leaders who are not only courageous enough to tell the truth, but also to hear it, and act on it.

Most importantly, however, this is no pie-in-the-sky appeal for truth at any cost. The authors also offer suggestions for dealing sensitively, but honestly, with situations where the truth could have negative consequences. Too many leaders avoid awkward questions by vacillating or answering the question they wish had been asked instead. We need to learn to say "I do know the answer to that, but I can’t discuss it now." Or even to admit when we just don’t know!

Transparency, authenticity, honesty – whatever you want to call it – is an integral part of your personal brand. It should permeate everything you do, and guide your decisions. If you follow the advice in this book your staff, customers and suppliers will in turn be more open with you, allowing you to make better decisions, identify problems sooner, and follow through faster and more productively.

I’ll be making this essential reading for all my clients as they move into living their personal brand.

Bye for now!

Rob

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