"What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly. You are what you Tweet!"
- Twitter Terms of Service
"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
- Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, in The Huffington Post
"Corporate transparency is touted as being good for a corporation's image, and is a key ingredient in compliance and governance. Transparent companies inspire more trust...But is such corporate transparency really such a good thing?...Still, opacity (or intransparency) is an even bigger risk. Not showing what you're doing is simply not accepted anymore."
- Frank Buytendijk, Vice President and Fellow, Enterprise Performance Management, Oracle, on his blog
"...there's no use trying to resist. You're already naked."
- Clive Thompson, The See-Through CEO, Wired
"Six drops of essence of terror, five drops of sinister sauce...and now for the tincture of tenderness..."
- Professor Weirdo creating Milton the Monster
"You're only as sick as your secrets."
- Saying known in therapy and recovery circles, probably most famously uttered by Carrie Fisher
While “transparency” as a business term became common after corporate financial and ethical violations, corporate leaders themselves have been asked to adopt personal transparency as they blog and tweet.
What is the purpose of personal CEO transparency?
In the business-to-business realm, if people do business with people, and people do business with people they know because they believe they can trust them more than with people they don’t know, and trust is perceived as decreasing risk, whereas not knowing people with whom they might deal is perceived as increasing risk, how much do people need to know about people to do business with them?
If people know not only a company’s mission, products, services, and financials, but its founder and leader - what he or she thinks, feels and does - are they more likely to do business with the company?
If the CEO presents himself or herself beyond “what you see is what you get” to transparency – being able to see through surface appearances – will that engender that "It's who you know" trust that increases the likelihood of business?
If the answer to "Will people do more business with my company if I am a transparent CEO?" is probably "Yes," then it might be time to find a discreet photographer.
If you’re familiar with triathlon togs - trisuits - then you know I’ve already pretty much been nude in public, especially when emerging from the swim, especially when I forgot to lock the porta-potty door in front of lines of hundreds of waiting triathletes. I’m desensitized. No big deal.
What I hear fellow CEOs struggle with is nudity of the heart, mind and spirit. I hear their concerns about the consequences of dismantling privacy fences, of secrets revealed, of that deepest fear - of not being accepted for who we truly are.
For me, I’ve had my dark nights of the soul. I’ll have more. I’ve had what Schmidt describes as “something that you don’t want anyone to know” and realized I didn’t want to know it, either. Like the cartoon character Milton the Monster, though, I’m comprised of both the sinister and the tender. Like R.E.M., I’m torn that I’ve said too much and not enough at the same time. And I’ve experienced, and witnessed, the risk and terrible cost of Buytendijk’s “intransparency,” of the sickness of secrets, almost unto death.
I think a secretive path, corporate or personal, is fraught with peril.
As a CEO, I have chosen a great deal of personal transparency. Will it result in more business for my company?
Maybe not more. But I bet my company, and companies with whom we can do good business, will recognize each other. I’m not a fan of attempting to control what others think and feel, of attempting to "make" people accept a "projection of a corporate image," regardless of the reality of the corporation.
From my company, what you see is what you get, and then some, down to the skin if need be.