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Monday, December 21, 2009


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A lovely post, Anne.

For me, the answer is not necessarily "transparency," but "honesty + humanity." That's a formula that works for me any way -- hmmm... feel a blog post coming on -- see, we inspire each other : )

I appreciate it when people are honest and display humanity by occasionally talking about their family, hopes, problems, etc. but the permanent social web is no place for unvarnished disclosure, IMO.

Thanks for the great post!

Great post Anne. During my trainings for Job Seekers I constantly remind them "if you wouldn't want your Mother to see it then don't put it online". A little reminder for business leaders too!
Happy Holidays!!

We have different classes of interactions with different classes of people, and for each, we are trying to send some set of signals. For interactions in which we try to establish alliances, we usually try to signal things like consistency, honesty, reliability, and trustworthiness. Appearing transparent helps with all of these. But maintaining such an image doesn't require unvarnished disclosure. I suspect that people are willing to categorize their relationships, and are satisfied with us if we send the appropriate signals within the category. For instance, we're happy as clients of some business if that business makes the terms of our agreements clear, honors them completely, and sometimes makes an extra effort to retain us, and we don't expect transparency in trade secrets or finances, because the alliance we're forming doesn't particularly depend on the latter. Or more personally, we're happy with casual acquaintances whom we run into at parties twice a year if they remember our names and tell amusing stories, and we don't expect them to share their innermost turmoil - in fact, we dislike it when they do.

So a nude photo captioned "we hide nothing from our clients" will probably make a good impression (plus signaling a sense of humor, etc.), but a nude photo captioned "I've been working out, trying to stay in good health - hey, how old would you say I look?" would probably fall into the wrong interaction category and cause discomfort.

“We’re so transparent, we’re naked!”

I wonder if this will be a corporate marketing slogan in 2010, complete with pics. Or, gee, a YouTube video.

Thanks for your comment, Mark. I am open to this being true - “the permanent social web is no place for unvarnished disclosure” - but I need to understand why not. For a CEO, what are the criteria for “this is okay to disclose” and “this is not okay to disclose”?

I liked your point about questioning whether one’s mother would be okay with online content, Patsy. I heard a funny version recently: “If you can’t tell Santa you want it, you shouldn’t want it!”

On the continuum of “okayness,” for a CEO, where do the external and internal criteria lie? What if the CEO’s mother is opposed to all online content and has taken every measure she can to keep all identifying information about herself offline? What if the CEO’s mother is writing a tell-all blog and sees no content as off limits? Those are extreme examples, and what’s acceptable for online content will probably never be either-or and will take a judgment call. Still, relative standards are unsatisfying to me.

Alex, your points make great sense. Herein is the challenge for me: “We have different classes of interactions with different classes of people…” When I put content online, I have no control over who sees it or what kind of interactions they have with it. Over six billion people could potentially read this blog post. They might judge it “unvarnished disclosure” or "honesty + humanity." I don’t have control over how my content is perceived.

Given that a CEO doesn’t have control over what others will think, feel, or do as a result of reading his or her online content, what’s a CEO to do?

I continue to explore this question and thank you so much for you thoughtful coments.

Here's a view of transparency from Business Week, "Naked Consulting: What Clients Really Want":


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