Why transparent communication must start from the top

Trust. At a time when “fake news” proliferates, political discourse is dizzyingly dishonest, and society feels unstable under our feet, building trust can seem like an unfortunate ambition.

But it’s not that difficult, and it’s needed in the workplace more than ever. Of course, building trust requires a commitment to authenticity – and often vulnerability. While the concepts of transparency and honesty may be obvious when it comes to building strong relationships in the office, the question of who makes the first move may be more surprising.

It turns out that cultivating trust in the workplace really has to start with leaders. A study conducted by the Trust Edge Leadership Institute found that nearly 90% of employees in the United States would trust senior leaders in their organization more if they were transparent about mistakes.

Additionally, while trust can build an effective and engaged team, its absence can lead to the downfall of an organization. The researchers also found that, while nearly two-thirds of employees say an increase in trust in their organization would encourage them to contribute more ideas and solutions, three-quarters say a lack of trust in the leadership would probably lead them to resign. But building trust within an organization takes time and places a heavy emphasis on communication, especially in engineering teams where customer deliverables are front and center and work can easily become siled.

To Build on, leaders encourage employees to ask questions, and the environment of trust this creates allows team members to speak up when they are perplexed, resulting in increased knowledge and productivity , explained Alan Spadoni, vice president of engineering. To Finixchief technology officer, Ramana Satyavarapu, said he and his team practice open, honest and direct communication, both internally with colleagues and externally with customers: “Withholding bad news or only sharing good news leads to the erosion of trust.”

Built In Chicago sat down with Spadoni and Satyavarapu to find out how they strengthen team communication to cultivate trust and get their tips for budding engineering leaders.

Ramana Satyavarapu

chief technology officer

Finix is ​​a fintech company developing payment solutions for SaaS platforms.

What is a key communication habit that you have developed and encouraged in your team?

We celebrate our victories and openly discuss our failures. “Open, honest, direct” is a core cultural value here, and it is constantly upheld and practiced. At monthly technology town halls, we hold ourselves accountable for our technology shortcomings, have candid discussions, and develop action plans to improve. Our penchant for action ensures rapid course correction and helps us stay focused on our goals.

Engineering teams are builders and problem solvers at heart, and being open, transparent, humble and thoughtful in our communication is so important. An essential part of communication is listening. It is the key skill that engineers must develop to better understand what they are building and solving before working on the problem.

We apply the same principle of open outward communication when talking to our customers. We are one of the few fintech payment facilitation companies that openly shares our goal of system uptime and service level with our customers.

The most important thing we can do is recognize that making mistakes is human, then learn from those mistakes and improve..”

Why is open, honest and direct communication important and what effect has it had on the way your team works?

Trust is the foundation of any world-class team. It is the combination of integrity and competence. Coating bad news gradually erodes trust within a team, a company and eventually with customers if goals or expectations are not met. Everyone is vulnerable and no one is perfect. The most important thing we can do is recognize that making mistakes is human, and then learn from those mistakes and improve.

Our open, honest, and straightforward approach—in other words, zero tolerance for sugar-coating—has had a transformative effect on the collaboration and effectiveness of our technology organization. Over time, I’ve seen the team evolve from just celebrating wins to openly discussing failures and proactively seeking help as soon as they learn of a shortcoming.

What advice do you have for engineering leaders looking to create healthy communication habits?

Every manager can be a great leader. Start by being authentic, always speak from your heart, and openly admit your individual or team shortcomings. Most importantly, direct all discussions towards learning and develop action plans to address setbacks.

As a precaution, avoid echo chambers, which often have negative results. There is a fine line between openly sharing failures or shortcomings and painting a dire picture. Always remember that the purpose of sharing mistakes is to motivate.

Last but not least, recognize people who cultivate healthy communication and note others who exhibit unhealthy communication so you can address it. Platforms like Slack amplify both good and bad communications. Managers should stay aware of their team’s internal and external channels to promote healthy communication. Lead by example.

In summary, open communication fosters trust. Trust drives morale and efficiency, which creates customer satisfaction. It’s a spiral effect.

Construction colleagues having a team group in the office
Build on

Alan Spadoni

Vice President, Engineering

Buildout develops marketing automation solutions for the commercial real estate industry.

What is a key communication habit that you have developed and encouraged in your team?

Everyone has impostor syndrome sometimes. And people may be afraid to ask questions because of embarrassment or the possibility of appearing uninformed. These feelings are understandable, so we aim to build and cultivate a relaxed and curious environment.

Our team members will not be judged if they ask any question they are confused about. By asking informed questions, they can learn and apply this knowledge. We cover this during our interview process when discussing team culture with candidates, and we reinforce this concept during our 90-day onboarding plan.

Why is encouraging questions an important habit to cultivate and what effect has it had on the way your team works?

Being stuck is one of the worst feelings at work, and it’s one of the biggest obstacles to productivity. The most important responsibility we have in software engineering is to make sure work runs smoothly. Even when we transitioned to a remote work model and faced the isolation resulting from Covid-19, we maintained a strong team culture and increased our production by 15% compared to when we were in the office. Our developer tenure is exceptional, and I think a big reason for that is our commitment to working together and not getting in the way.

The job should be easy – not the problems we solve, but the processes we follow. »

What advice do you have for engineering leaders looking to create healthy communication habits?

The job should be easy – not the problems we solve, but the processes we follow. Bureaucracy, bureaucracy, and general friction throughout the software development lifecycle is what separates productive companies that create great user experiences from those that don’t. These things also quickly alienate developers. If you have tenure issues, this is one of the first areas to dive into.

Finally, leading by example is extremely important. Your engineers won’t hesitate to ask informed questions if you do the same. Practice what you preach.

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