Transparency

Why This Founder and Investor Says 'I Don't Know, Let Me Get Back to You' Is Often the Best Response You Can Give

Extreme transparency is a hallmark of good leadership.
Why This Founder and Investor Says 'I Don't Know, Let Me Get Back to You' Is Often the Best Response You Can Give
Image credit: Mike O'Hara/CNBC
Guest Writer
Co-Founder and CEO of Integrate
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I grew up, and spent my early adult years, playing two extreme sports: football and freestyle skiing. In the NFL, I played for two very different organizations, and between them I learned many lessons that I have merged into my current life as a founder and CEO of Integrate, a large marketing SaaS company. The bad experiences taught me as much as the good ones.

Related: 4 Reasons You Need to Embrace Transparency in the Workplace

As a Philadelphia Eagle, I never felt the organization was fully transparent with the players. This led to a lack of trust in the locker room and made for a "watch your own back" culture. By contrast, as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, my experience was the opposite. If you look up extreme transparency on Google, the first image that should appear is the Steelers head football coach, Mike Tomlin. Coach Tomlin was never afraid to be real with us and tell us how it was -- good or bad. This transparency and realness by our leader reduced internal politics and created a connected team culture where players could more easily "lock arms" and focus on the whole squad, rather than themselves. That year, in 2008, the Steelers were Super Bowl Champs.

As I moved away from athletics and into the workforce, it came as a surprise to me how secretive some founders and management layers were with their teams. From a macro perspective, I understand the urge to do so. As the CEO of Integrate, I want my team excited about the company's future and not feeling deterred by weaknesses and obstacles. This mentality is called the optimism delusion. The truth is, great leaders understand the only way to strengthen a team, product and company, is to consistently bring the necessary focus to the areas that need the most improvement.

Related: Why It's Important That Facebook Admitted It Sometimes 'Gets Things Wrong'

Using Coach Tomlin-like transparency leads to improvements that go way beyond teamwork; the effects on profitability are striking. As examples, here are just four statistics, from four separate sources, showing how lack of transparency can impact a business.

The common theme is, isolation is not conducive to good business -- and, remember, I only looked at the marketing and sales side. Expanded across a whole business, these effects are multiplied many times.

Related: Getting Employees to Tell the Whole Truth When You Need to Hear It

The consequences of hiding information, or being secretive about poor results, can be catastrophic for an organization and promote the construction of a weak and timid culture.

In its simplest form, extreme transparency eliminates these layers of secrecy and bureaucracy to bring all team members to the same level playing field. The idea is to give everybody involved, at whatever pay grade, or job title, the complete picture of the company. No secrets -- no cover-ups -- everything up front.

Transparency is also very important if you want to raise capital to take your idea to market. I'm one of three investors on Adventure Capitalists on CNBC and I want to see entrepreneurs say things like, "I don't know, let me get back to you." One of the biggest red flags for investors is when a founder pretends to have all the answers when you know that he or she does not.

Some new management fads pass quickly. In an age where every aspect of your business is out there on the internet for customers to comment on and rate you, extreme transparency is something you (and your team) should take a serious look at.

Adventure Capitalists debuts tonight on CNBC at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Watch a sneak peek of what to expect below. 

More from Entrepreneur

In as little as seven months, the Entrepreneur Authors program will turn your ideas and expertise into a professionally presented book.
Apply Now

Are paying too much for business insurance? Do you have critical gaps in your coverage? Trust Entrepreneur to help you find out.
Get Your Quote Now

One-on-one online sessions with our experts can help you start a business, grow your business, build your brand, fundraise and more.
Book Your Session

Latest on Entrepreneur

My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.