How Transparent Is Too Transparent?
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Beck Besecker believes in transparency.
In fact, he calls Marxent, the technology company he co-founded with his brother, “aggressively transparent.” Everyone can talk to everyone else. Everyone has a voice. Everyone has access to management. Most important, everyone is trusted. There’s an assumption that the employees of Marxent are professional, responsible, mature adults and thus they’re completely capable of taking bad news and rolling with it.
That is, until the news got really bad. Marxent lost a client. But not just any client. A “massively important” client, Besecker says. “Like, the future of our company important.”
And when Besecker got this very bad news, he had to ask himself, how much do I value transparency? How much do I trust my employees to take what could be very, very bad news, without quitting or freaking out?
He had a lot of sleepless nights, and read a lot of books, did a lot of soul searching. He reached out to peers.
“I asked a lot of seasoned managers for advice -- we've got a great network of advisers -- and most of the advice was to delay the conversation,” he says. “But this was such an extreme situation where I just didn't have a choice. I was going to have to share. And I truthfully, I was scared to death. I had no idea what the outcome would be.”
So he ignored the people who told him to hold back the truth, or spin, and he leveled with everyone. He told them everything. And what he discovered -- about his staff, about himself and about the nature of business -- shocked him and, perhaps more important, led Marxent to even greater heights.
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