The importance of transparency

The following notes are a brief summary of the roundtable conversation that took place among a group that gathered at the Mad Rooster Café to sharpen their leadership skills.

Our conversation began with a discussion of the challenges that were illuminated as part of the recent violence that followed the shooting of (an armed) black man in the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee.  The complexity of that situation was compounded by the lack of first-hand information regarding the specific details of the situation, its aftermath, and the underlying stressors associated with race, segregation, and injustice in the United States.  Among the factors that served to sensationalize the situation was the introduction of individuals from outside the neighborhood immediately after the shooting and the fact that a burning building makes for better TV news than does church groups Ministering to their community.  As a roundtable, we recognized that this is a situation beyond the capacity of the group to address in the limited time we had available to us.

The group agreed to consider another situation that was both more accessible and more manageable to address in our time together.  The scenario we dug into was at a far smaller scope than racial disparities but had surprisingly similar dynamics.

Among the highlights of the conversation:

  • Policies and procedures create a transparent set of operating agreements.
  • Trust and an expectation of equitable treatment are undermined in the absence of standard operating procedures (SOP).
  • It is almost impossible to define a set of policies and procedures that cover all eventualities.
  • It is the responsibility of the (formal) leader to determine when, and how, SOP will be modified to fit non-standard situations.
  • When the need arises to stray from SOP it is important to ensure that the reasons for the deviation, actions to be taken, and distribution of responsibilities are clearly articulated.
  • Anytime SOP is abandoned for a specific situation, it is important to determine whether the situation justifies the exception or if there is a need to revise policy and/or procedures.
  • If everyone around the table responds “Fine” to the question “How are things going in your area of responsibility?” it’s probably the case that they are not.
  • Sometimes, the clearest act of leadership is to acknowledge that things are not going “fine.”  This can create a path forward to a more collaborative, cooperative environment.

The following article was not discussed during the roundtable but seems relevant to the conversation. 

3 tips for surviving a toxic workplace

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Author: Dan Lococo

I am a whole person called to engage with others as they realize their own wholeness. Service is the act of engaging with others on their journey to realizing their own wholeness. (December, 2013)

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