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“I’ve come to learn there is a virtuous cycle to transparency and a very vicious cycle to obfuscation.” ~Jeff Weiner, CEO LinkedIn

One of my coaching clients is head of crisis management for a global PR firm. He’s only called on to handle the hard cases, the ones where honesty and integrity and brand loyalty and trust are on the line. Think Boeing. You get the idea.

Recently, he said something that struck me at the time and has stuck with me—enough for me to ponder the concept it contains.

We were discussing the ideals of honesty and integrity—and their application—as it related to his personal boundaries within his professional role.

“Transparency,” he commented, “doesn’t necessarily demand full disclosure.”

Initially, I had push back so he went on to explain what he meant more fully.

“People want to know you’re telling the truth, that you’re being honest with them. That doesn’t mean they want—or need—all the details. Clients can make things messier by trying too hard to be transparent.”

The more I think about it, the more I tend to believe this smart and accomplished man is right.

A colleague fails to follow-through on a promised slide deck and you’re left holding the bag. Do you even care about the reasons? The result is what matters to you, and your colleague’s ownership of it.

Someone has an affair. They tell their partner or are found out. Either way, does the partner need to hear all the details? Or rather an accountable apology?

Transparency—like trust—is felt as much as seen. People know it when they see it; it shows up on the face and can be felt by listeners or viewers.

But it doesn’t mean data-dumping all the details.

Think of it like this: Transparency is the difference between inviting someone into your living room for a conversation—or into your bedroom. Big difference.

Transparency—even after the fact—requires accountability, not necessarily full disclosure.

It demands that you know the line. But I think that maybe that line, the one we label discernment, might take a lifetime to learn.

What I know is this: obfuscation and avoidance always, always, always catch up with you, eventually.

But maybe that takes a lifetime to learn, too.

 

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