With Halloween fast approaching, we have ghosts on the brain. While most ghosts aren’t exactly office-appropriate (they rarely abide by the dress code, for one), there is one area in which being a bit more ghostly really can benefit your team: transparency.
Transparency is key when it comes to fostering the kind of workplace where people can collaborate freely and openly. There are lots of reasons why you should work towards a more transparent, trusting culture, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
Even still, there are some steps you can take that will have immediate effects. Whether you’re a team lead or a team member, here are five ways to score quick transparency wins — and make ghosts everywhere proud.

1. Have a regular stand up

Whether or not you actually stand up is up to you (if you’re going full ghost you should float, if possible), but the simple act of gathering the team together to report on what everyone is currently working on is a quick, powerful way for each team member to get clarity on each other’s workloads.
Even 10 minutes a day is enough time to get caught up. You can do it in person, over video chat, or even do a roll call in your work messaging app and get everyone to write a quick line in your team channel about what they’re working on.
If you don’t know where to begin, borrow from Agile methodology and start with these three simple questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What are you working on today?
  3. Is there anything getting in your way? (Bonus fourth question: if so, how can the team help?)

This isn’t about policing people. Instead, it’s a way of giving everyone a quick overview of what’s going on; breaking down intra-team silos so that people can collaborate when it makes sense to; and giving each team member a regular opportunity to ask for help if they’re having issues.

2. Admit your mistakes

When something goes wrong, it’s tempting to run away, change your name, and never tell anyone about what happened or who you used to be. But disappearing completely isn’t the type of transparency that’s needed here.
The best thing you can do is own up to your mistakes (even if no-one saw you making them). On an individual level, it shows you’re honest, responsible, and more concerned with fixing problems than saving face. And on a team level, when one person is transparent about their failures, it gives everyone on the team the opportunity to learn from them (and avoid repeating the same mistakes). Plus, having the kind of culture where mistakes aren’t the enemy builds the kind of culture where you’re empowered to take risks in the first place.
So what should you do if you’re the one who’s made a mistake? First things first, assess the damage. What happened? Who was impacted? Was there any cost involved? When you have a clear picture of what happened and why, tell someone. Try to come to the meeting armed with a proposed solution. Remember, this isn’t about punishment; it’s about fixing a problem, so use it as an opportunity to show that you’re solution-oriented, able to prioritize, and focused on the big picture. Then, once you’ve remedied the situation, move on from it — but make sure you carry what you learned forward.

3. Schedule post-mortem meetings

“Post-mortems” always sound a little ghoulish, but they don’t need to be as traumatic as the name suggests. In fact, a good post-mortem meeting can be one of the most valuable things your team does. Whether you include clients in your post-mortem or keep your review meetings internal, the post-project debrief session gives each team member a chance to lay everything on the table and reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how to do better next time.
To start with, put your post-mortem in the calendar at the outset of your project. Make it clear that it’s an integral part of the process, not an afterthought. You should also nominate a moderator whose job it will be to source feedback and keep the meeting on track.
Before the meeting, the moderator should circulate a questionnaire to get feedback from the team on how they felt everything went. This has two benefits: firstly, it refreshes everyone’s memory and gets them thinking critically about what went well and what went less than well; and secondly, it allows you to spot trends and organize the meeting’s agenda around any recurring themes so you can focus on what’s most important.
HubSpot suggests asking three types of questions in your post-mortem:

  • Quantitative: “Did our plan work? Did we follow our plan?”
  • Qualitative: “Did we perform at a high standard? Were our stakeholders happy with the quality of our work?”
  • Subjective: “How did you feel working on this project? What would you like to do differently next time?”

The post-mortem meeting is a forum for people to reflect honestly about your team’s processes and their experience of them. Encourage that transparency by documenting your findings and turning the resulting feedback into actionable points — and follow through on implementing them.

4. Use the right tools (in the right way)

Transparency is almost impossible if the whole team is working in silos, and it’s even trickier if you’re not all in the same location or time zone. That’s why you need to make sure your team are all on the same page by sharing the same tools and resources.
Using the right tools to manage your work is a quick way to share visibility over a task load. Whether that’s project management software that lets you see what tasks everyone else is currently working on, an editable content library that serves as the single source of truth for your organization, or a shared inbox that you use to collaboratively manage customer communication, having your main workflow(s) centralized into one shared location saves time, cuts down on duplication, and improves accountability.
Just as important as giving your team access to tools that will help them accomplish, track, and collaborate on their work, however, is giving them access to tools that will help them to measure the success of that work. However you define success — page views, downloads, free trials, or some other metric — enabling every individual to track their output’s performance in real-time means that they have more control over the feedback loop and can course-correct as necessary.
When no single team member is the gatekeeper of knowledge, the whole team benefits from increased flexibility, autonomy, and visibility.

5. Know the limits of transparency

Sometimes, a little opacity is what’s called for. When it comes to private matters or sensitive issues, it’s time to give up the ghost.
Things like salaries, personal matters, or HR complaints should always be kept confidential. Individuals can choose to discuss these things if they wish, but it should be entirely at their own discretion. A good rule of thumb is: if it’s not yours to tell, don’t tell it. Always respect your colleagues’ right to privacy.
How does your team practice transparency? Have you tried any of these tactics? Are there any other office cues you think we can take from ghosts? Let us know in the comments.