Emily Hayward had always thought of herself as an approachable boss, someone her employees could come to with any complaint or comment. And she was like that--at first. But, as Red Antler, the Brooklyn-based branding firm that she co-founded, grew, she started having more closed-door meetings with her senior leadership team. "It didn't feel appropriate to have certain conversations in front of everyone," she says.
Little did she know that her office huddles were starting to alienate her staff. People began wondering what was going on. "We had always assumed that if anyone had questions or were confused about things that they could just ask," she said at a recent Inc. 5000 event. "But that wasn't the case at all--people would see us and think we were plotting and scheming."
She was shocked when she heard how people were really feeling. "It was a big wakeup moment for me," she says. Hayward realized then that, to make a difference, she needed to be more transparent and had to make a concerted effort to ensure everyone in the business was aware of what was going on. She also wanted her staff to know that Red Antler's senior leaders were always around to chat.
To increase transparency, Hayward did something most private businesses would never dare to do: she provided detailed quarterly updates on how the business was performing. Like a public company, she shared financial information, the goals she and her team wanted to accomplish in the next quarter, and the many issues she was dealing with, both good and bad. "Some things are uncomfortable to share," she says.
The idea was to try and make sure everyone is kept in the loop--and that openness seems to have been a difference maker, she says. People are more informed, and staff once again know that Hayward and her team are happy to share as much about the business as they can. Says Hayward: "We don't want anyone to show up to work one day and be shocked or thrown off course by some piece of news."