So much of the genesis of Oxygen Conservation has been stolen from the way businesses and business leadership have developed in Silicon Valley – thank you Google, Apple, LinkedIn, Tesla and so many more! One of the key concepts directly borrowed from Google and specifically the work of Laszlo Bock, has been a commitment to radical transparency.
Radical transparency is a concept that promotes openness, honesty, and disclosure to an extreme degree within a business or team. It involves sharing information, decision-making processes, and even commercially sensitive data openly and freely, with very few filters or restrictions. We apply a simple test to determine whether we’re being true to our commitment to radical transparency and ask ourselves – are we sharing everything we’re comfortable sharing with the team and then we share just a little more.
Our belief is that if you want people to genuinely feel ownership of the business, and the decisions that are made, you have to give them all the information they need and involve them in the decision-making process. We also believe that radical transparency is a key tool in creating a culture of trust, accountability, and collaboration by ensuring that everyone involved has access to the same information.
Radical transparency in Oxygen Conservation includes the sharing of virtually all data and information short of individual’s personal information including salaries. We don’t do this for so many reasons including the fact that we’ve seen first-hand the toxic effect of openly shared salaries, especially salary bandings in the public sector. Openly shared and often discussed salary bands enforce hierarchy, leading to people asking “what grade are you (shorthand for salary do you earn)” before deciding whether to take a meeting, share data and information, or to consider you for a promotion. It also results in endless comparisons, frustration, and complaints about performance with respect to grade. Instead, we try and craft unique reward packages, working arrangements, and benefits that make everyone delighted to be part of the team.
We have built structures and processes that force radical transparency to be a feature of what we do. An example of this bookending our week with an opening team meeting, (named after its inspiration – Blackstone meeting) which includes our entire central team (including interns) where we discuss key strategic issues and operational challenges. And then ending the week by producing a long-form update report for the Board which is also shared with the team in its entirety.
We believe that radical transparency creates so many important competitive advantages for a business;
Improved Decision Making: If you want people to make fantastic decisions you have to give them all the information they need. In a complex world with many interconnected factors the more information that is shared the better. We include as many of the team as possible in all key decisions, from potential landscape acquisitions to the hiring of new members of the team. And before anyone says this isn’t the most efficient way to make decisions, you’re absolutely right, it’s not, but we believe it is the best, if you want to create an incredible culture for amazing people!
Radical transparency allows for a better understanding of situations, enabling individuals to evaluate options and consequences more accurately. If you’re not prepared to share enough data and information to allow people to make decisions with full understanding and context, is it really fair to ask their views?
Continuous Improvement: Radical transparency creates a learning culture where mistakes and failures are openly discussed and celebrated as opportunities. By sharing successes and failures, everyone can learn from past experiences and continuously improve. This approach exposes everyone to new ways of working, experiences, and opportunities. If you’re committed to recruiting only people better than you (and the rest of the team) in a meaningful way, surely you want to create as many opportunities as possible for teams to share experiences and learn from each other.
Enhanced Collaboration: Openly sharing information encourages collaboration and teamwork; at our Blackstone meeting Head of Departments and Estate Custodians share updates with the team where anyone is free to ask for more information, for additional context and most importantly ask for and offer help – as long as we keep moving at pace. When people have access to relevant data and information, they can contribute their insights, ideas, and expertise to projects or discussions. This leads to more inclusive and diverse perspectives (assuming you’ve got your recruitment right) ultimately fostering innovation and creativity, creating more opportunities for serendipitous moments of magic!
Engagement and Empowerment: If you want people to work for you, all you can expect is for them to do as they’re told! If you want a team of incredible people to work with you then you have to welcome them into the decision-making process as equals and that means giving them the information they need to make fantastic decisions.
This doesn’t mean we’re frozen by debate or stuck with the mediocracy that so often comes with democracy – everyone has to get an opinion but ultimately a decision is made by the person best placed to decide. Radical transparency is one of our best tools to create a team that works together to help Scale Conservation.
Trust: One of the most powerful tools I’ve ever learnt in creating trusting relationships isn’t to give people something, nor to ask them for something but to do both simultaneously. With every new team member, we quickly give them access to a huge amount of data and information, alongside creating a role they’re delighted to take. In exchange we ask them to be considerate and respectful with what we’ve shared and as long as they are, we continue to give them access to anything and everything that would help them be incredible in their role. I always begin from a point of trust, if you can’t then it’s your fault as a business leader for hiring poorly, or keeping someone you can’t trust within your team.
I started this article thinking I was going to talk about radical transparency and end this article thinking that it’s not radical at all. Being more transparent than you’re initially comfortable with is really the only option if you want to work with incredible people and together, recruit, build, and continue to develop a high-performing team!