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PODCAST EPISODE 51: ANITRA ST. HILAIRE | VP OF PEOPLE, THREEFLOW




In a new and equitable world of work, companies should provide their team members with the environment and tools that allows them to do their best work, says Anitra St. Hilaire, Vice President of People at ThreeFlow. This allows them to focus and allocate their energy towards getting great outcomes. Anitra also believes in a culture of responsible transparency - providing complete clarity about the why and how of any policy or decision.


Here are my three top takeaways from the episode:

  1. Many issues in the workplace start and end with poor communication.

  2. It’s important to provide an environment where people feel free to ask questions and make mistakes.

  3. Telling the story behind why you are implementing a policy or action shows your people that you care and helps them to understand the WHY.


I know you’ll find lots of nuggets and applicable tips in this conversation - enjoy!


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TRANSCRIPT


Anitra: Telling a story about why you're doing a thing or why you're not doing a thing can be incredibly respectful, and it's this concept that I talk about a lot - responsible transparency. I don't need to tell you every single thing about all the things that we're doing, but really being clear about the decisions you make and why.


Aaron: How do we create a new world of work, one where companies succeed because of their leadership, not despite it? I'm Aaron Levy, the founder of Raise the Bar, and over the last decade, I've been immersing myself in this question. In this podcast, Raising the Bar on Leadership, we talk to people leaders, founders, and culture experts about how they've created a people-first culture in the workplace, the challenges and hurdles, the wins, and the failures.


Today we're lucky to have Anitra St. Hilaire, the Vice President of People at ThreeFlow, a benefits placement software that brokers and carriers use to maintain relationships and help employers make the best benefits decisions. In today's episode, we talk a lot about communication and its impact on business performance.


Anitra introduces the concept of responsible transparency and talks about what it means to provide clarity and context in your communication with others and how that will affect how they show up and perform. There's a lot of gold nuggets in this episode. Take a listen.


Aaron: Anitra, it's a pleasure to have you on. I'm so excited to learn more about you and, and hear your story.


Anitra: Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited for our conversation.

Aaron: The interesting part of the story is a quick sweep of your background. You started in finance, and yet you ended up in the people function.


How did you get here, and then why did you stay?


Anitra: I didn't expect it. I started off, and it's a little bit of a story, but it's all relevant. In college, I wanted to be a psych major, but I wanted to make money really quickly after I got out of school. And so I figured finance would be an easy way to do that.


I'd always had an interest in people, but math and finance was the path I was committed to taking. And I worked at Procter & Gamble for a couple of years as an internal auditor and realized this was not for me. Took a couple of years to go to grad school, still didn't know what I wanted to do. And so I went into consulting and it was a small company and you sort of took the consulting gigs that they had available for you.


And mine were largely in the area of HR. And what I realized from that consulting opportunity was that having a good business sense from my internal auditing and strong financial background made me a very good partner from an HR perspective because I could understand the business and what was happening with the work and then just layer on a people lens to it.


And so after consulting for about a year or so, I realized I really just wanted to go into the HR space and not fix individual problems, but go somewhere, fix problems, and then refix them or find new ones and do it with one particular organization. And ended up at Merrill Lynch, which was a nice fit between my finance background and my HR background.


And then from there, just stayed in the HR space because I find it's a really great way to leverage some of the skills and interests I have in understanding people, working with people and understanding how I can help make their experience better. One of the things I say whenever I'm talking to people about my job and in interviews, and I know it sounds trite, but I like helping people.


That has been a thing that has just been very core to who I am, and I find that this is a good way to do it, but it's nice to have that strong, business fundamental understanding that allows me to not just be a people partner, but an executive partner for roles like I have now. Did that answer your question?


Aaron: Yeah. That answers it really well. I, I love the background, I love the perspective, and I couldn't agree more that having a business background coming into the role of the people function is super crucial in the way that the people function has changed in businesses in the last 10 years.


Anitra: Mm-hmm.


Aaron: And the rapid change to really not just be more accountable, but truly to advancing the performance and development of the people as an asset in the business, rather than just making payroll and making sure benefits are kept up.


Anitra: I think that's right and something that I have found myself saying more now than ever before is I really see the HR function as being on behalf of the business.

We are not here for managers, which is often a story - “they're just here for management.” And we can't be here solely for people, but we are here for the business, which is a combination of those two things. And it's a lot of responsibility.


But I think that being able to tell that truth has been incredibly helpful in making tough decisions, et cetera, because it's helping people understand the HR function is, it's a function of people.


But we're helping the business through the lens of people interactions.


Aaron: Yeah. And that makes complete sense and we talk about this all the time. We talk about something at Raise the Bar and one of the reasons we're in business is to be a part of the creation of this equitable world of work, right?


People always talk about a new world of work, but what does that mean? And we've, for us, defined that as an equitable world of work. I'm building a bridge and I'm curious to hear what your perspective is, but the way you just mentioned the HR function or the people function to me is how the world of work is changing or hopefully will be changing to one where we're looking at people and the business for the outcome of business success. And you can't get business success without people success.


Anitra: Mm-hmm.


Aaron: Right, those are like one and the same. And it's not like it's a fufu, let's give hugs and high fives and, you know, free LaCroixs in the, in the office. Rather, it's “how do we get to the performance?” And that requires a certain way of acting and being.


And so I'm just curious, your take and your perspective on how the evolution of the people function is aligning or not aligning with this new equitable world of work.

Anitra: I think it's an interesting question and it's maybe complicated of an answer. So when I think of the people function, one of the things I think we are generally getting better at is understanding one size doesn't fit all.


And truly trying to understand your population and making calls that allow for, a lot of folks to have access. But I say that saying that, where I think it's getting more difficult in the world is what does equitable mean? And how can you offer choice for folks in a way that feels helpful and useful, but still is very much aligned with your values?


So let me give an example of this. When I think about benefits, There is a world where we say that medical insurance for everyone and how everyone can take advantage of this. You have access to your medical, dental, vision, and that's helpful.


When you think about adding the additional sorts of benefits, do you have childcare right in the office or parental leave, and how much parental leave you give. There's this understanding that equitable means that you may be focusing some of your benefits on a very narrow population that can't have access to what you're providing if you don't give it to them.


And being willing to say that at our organization, we actually do want to give parents the best chance of starting a new life, and so we are going to be more generous than your average organization, or what the law requires, because from our perspective, being equitable means I want every parent who works here to be able to balance their work and their life in a way that makes sense.


And I think where this is gonna continue to get tricky for companies is you do have to make calls on where you are willing to live into and put your, sort of, money or time or resources where your mouth is to serve certain parts of your population. Because equity is not the same as giving everyone the same.


It's not equal. And that's why health insurance is like everyone's gonna get it in. That's great. But when you think about real equity within the workplace, how do you help ensure that your different populations of people are getting access to the things they need? And sometimes that means investing more, and sometimes that means this is not a population that we're gonna focus on right now, and they're going to get less.


And every company has to make that choice in this day and age, because you don't, you don't have infinite options. You can't do all the things for all the people.


Aaron: How would you respond to somebody, let's make up an executive at your company or somebody else hearing this, who says,sure, it's good to give access to as many people as we can, and yes, we have to make choices. So there's certain access we're not gonna give. But how do you balance access with, we need performance. We need a performance based culture where people are motivated to do their work?


Anitra: I'd say that those two things aren't mutually exclusive.


I think if you wanna get the best out of people and you want them to get their work done, then you need to have an environment in which they can do their best work. And I see that as part of our role as we want an environment where people can come to work every day and do their best work.


And so when that's difficult for them because they're in a remote workspace, but you don't provide them with the tools that they need or the training they need to work remotely. If you're doing that in a place where someone doesn't have the flexibility to take care of their personal needs, then you're not going to get the best out of them.


And so you can make the choice to not provide things for folks and the population of people that can't thrive in that workspace, they will leave or you will ask them to leave. And what you'll end up with is a very narrow group of people who may be performing, but then are you really getting the best for your overall organization because you've got just this one kind of person who can live under your one set of rules.

So I, I don't think they're mutually exclusive. I think to have a very performance, a culture that people need to get their work done and you need them to have great outcomes, then you need to provide the environment in which what they can focus on and spend their energy on is getting to those great outcomes and taking away as much of the - I'll call it distraction noise of what happens when you don't have an equitable workspace - you're just gonna lose a bunch of people who cannot perform under the very narrow definition of what good work is.


Aaron: I'm taking copious notes as you're saying, and the way my brain was seeing it, I have a finance background too, and it was like, it's, just suboptimal.


To not provide and create the environment for success. Right. Like that's what I'm hearing you say. And that's how you see it, right? You can operate a business that way you're gonna have a limited band of people who are working in that certain way, and that's suboptimal because you're not gonna have all the potential talent.

You could succeed in a business and you're gonna lose good people who were helping your business.


Anitra: That's right.


Aaron: We often get stuck in the, it's this or that, right? we draw a line and we say it's black or white and we don't realize it. There's a whole lot of gray or there's a whole lot of connection from creating the environment for people.


Is the environment for people to succeed? Is the environment for your business to perform? And that is an essential role of a business.


Anitra: I think so, and there is a third piece of that, which is, really being values led. And that helps with this idea of being all the things to all the people, which you can't.


But what you can do is, as a business, identify what your values are and really lean into those to help you make decisions and move things forward. And I think if you're doing that, that will help you be incredibly successful and take full advantage of the power of the people you have working on your team.


Aaron: You've said in the past, most issues start and end with poor communication. It, yes, it jumped out to me. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?


Anitra: So, when I think about, how work works. So much of what we do, and I've been working remotely now for over 10 years.


I was a pre-COVID remote worker, and the importance of communication is so much more clear. I think in a remote workspace you can't pull someone aside and straighten the thing out and you're working different time zones and a lot of it is written. When we don't understand one another, it leads to so many mistakes and arguments, and missed expectations. And that normally starts with communication.


Do you understand what I want? And was I clear about my expectations? Do we know what success looks like when you are not aligned on those answers? So much of what goes wrong can be tied back to, did I communicate what I expected? Did I communicate when a thing went wrong? Did I communicate when a thing went right? And it's been very clear to me, particularly as I've had to do things like, have tough conversations or you're going through a performance improvement plan with someone. The number of times that I've seen people say like, “I didn't know this was a problem.”


And now I'm on this performance improvement plan. And that's communication because you, as a manager, expected that they knew that they should have 10 widgets an hour, but they didn't. They thought nine was good enough, but you weren't clear about that. So they're doing nine and they're thinking things are great, and you're thinking the, the expectation here is 10 and things aren't going well.


And that comes through not just in performance problems, but giving someone a raise. If I expect 10% and you give me 4%, which is way more than what the average is in the industry right now, you're gonna come out and you're gonna say, I've got this 4% raise. Everyone else is doing 2%. Aren't you feeling great?


And the employee's gonna say, well, I thought I was getting 10%. And so I'm super upset and disappointed at this point. Again, poor communication. You had different expectations than I did, and we didn't align on those, and I didn't make those expectations clear up front. So now we're in this place where I was trying to do the right thing and it isn't the right thing for this individual.


So I try very hard in my role and, with my teams, to get clear on what is it we want people to know, telling them that thing multiple times over because people don't hear things the first, second, or sometimes third time. Making it accessible for them to see and refer back to at times. And then when you get questions, making sure that you answer those ‘cause you're not always gonna get it right.


But understanding that there's a place for someone to get more clarity. And then maybe lastly, when the communication doesn't work, owning up to that and being very clear about, here's where you went wrong and here's where you're gonna get better.


Aaron: I was literally gonna ask you like, okay, it sounds like a simple idea of creating clarity.


And it's honestly one of the things that the core tenet of what we talk to leaders about, like your responsibility is to create clarity, give context on where you're going and why you're going there.


Anitra: Mm-hmm.

Aaron: And make sure people feel psychologically safe enough to speak up and ask questions. And I was gonna say like, how do you actually do that?


And, I just love that you said we one, get clear on what we want people to know. We communicate that to them. We repeat, repeat, repeat and we always say we're not repeating, we're just reinforcing a message. What I haven't seen before, which makes sense and we've probably seen it in ways, but in terms of a process, make it accessible for people to refer back, answer questions and then reflect and own any misses. Honestly, that off the cuff, five steps, if we all did that, anytime we rolled something out would reduce so many errors and issues.


Anitra: Yes. And I think that last piece is something I've found in my tenure, particularly as a, a more senior leader later in my career, that ability to say, you know what? We did not do that well, and I'm sorry. And here's how we're gonna avoid doing that in the future and then living into that.


Because if you tell people how you're gonna avoid it and you don't avoid it, then that's problematic. But it's a different kind of problem. But I think there is a real, there's some trust regained when you are able to acknowledge that you didn't get a thing right.


Whether your intentions were good, and most of the time they're really good intentions. I just messed up. I didn't understand, I didn't hear, I didn't know being able to tell people, “Hey, I got this wrong and I'm gonna do better and here's how


I'm going to do better. And does that work for you? And, do you wanna talk about?” It has been probably one of the most powerful learnings in my career, because I know I'm not gonna get things right and I've had to lead some very difficult things, layoffs, et cetera, and it's been one of the greatest parts of my career when someone says to me, I really hate this thing that has happened, I'm really mad about it. But thank you for doing it in a way that allowed me to ask questions or doing it in a way that I felt at least heard. I don't agree with what you're doing, but I feel like you at least thought about me and thought about what I said.


I wish to never have another difficult conversation in my life. That would be great, but I know that's not real. But I do really want all of those difficult conversations if we can both leave feeling respected and treated fairly. I don't necessarily expect everyone to walk away happy, but feeling respected is important to me.


Aaron: What was the moment that drove that realization of the importance of opening up vulnerably to, I don't know, or I screwed up?


Anitra: There have been so many, so I don't know if there's a particular, this is the thing, but I can speak to one very specific situation that has stayed with me for a while. And it was an individual that we were having a check-in, a manager that I work with. And my intent in talking to this person was, “Hey, I wanna see how you're doing, how things are going.Do you feel good about work?”


And I knew the work situation was a little bit bumpy and I said to the individual, you know, they're okay. Things are, you know, things are going okay. It's a little bit frustrating. And I was like, well, you know, I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to leave. And this person did not handle that well, and I truly meant it as a, “based on the things I'm hearing you say, it sounds like you're not in a really good place, and I understand maybe you wanna get outta here.” And the follow up for me would be, here's why I don't think it's as bad as you think it is. But I was trying to be this understanding kind person.


It's like, oh, I could see how you wanted to leave. And the person took it as, wait, are you trying to fire me? Are you trying to get rid of me? Is that why you're bringing that up? I didn't say anything about wanting to leave. I just said I was having like these tough things, but.


And what I realized in that moment was I had completely misread the situation. I had been incredibly presumptive. I wasn't asking questions. I was trying to show my allegiance, but I had no alliance and understanding, but I had no understanding of what this person was going through or dealing with.


And taking a moment to say like, hold on, hold on. You're right. I messed that up and here's what I was trying to do, but obviously my impact was not what I intended, and I've completely freaked you out and I don't want you worrying about your job or am I trying to get rid of you.


We didn't have that basis of trust for him to feel that way. And it took a while to get back to a place where I think this person heard that what I was trying to do isn't what came across and trusted me to tell me new things again.


But it really stayed with me because that was one of those “the road to Heck is paved with good intentions” moment. I had all the good intentions, but I really did not think through the fact that, yes, you have great relationships with most people, but not all people, and you have to be super thoughtful about who you're talking to, and I've learned to ask a lot more questions versus trying to be a friend and talk to everyone as if they were my friend.


I'm still friendly, but I have definitely learned in my career how not to get caught in that situation and I, so far it's been pretty good.


Aaron: I was anxious and nervous. That whole story when you were telling, like, I was feeling like a knot in my chest, like, oh, oh no. Oh no.


Anitra: And oh, he was so upset and I was so heartbroken because this was not someone I was trying to put on notice.


And I did. And it was wrong. And I still replay this. I'm like, oh my gosh, I could tell you this exact person's name. I could see him. It's a very visceral memory for me because it was handled so poorly and it's one of those moments which I think many of us have. There really wasn't anything behind it.


I was trying to be helpful, but I wasn't. And you have to own that. You have to own that. Yeah. I screwed up. I screwed up big time and I'm really sorry. And know that it doesn't fix it. I was sorry, and I could tell him why I did the thing that I did, but that didn't make it better. I just had to do better and build the trust with him.


And eventually I did. And I don't think he ever really fully trusted me because I get it. I messed it up. But we did end up in a better place. Not as ideal as I would like, but these are lessons and I never did that to another employee. I'm sure I've done other things, but not that one.


Aaron: Thank you for sharing a vulnerable story that's you know, you're being interviewed and when we're being interviewed it's usually like, “Hey, I'm the authority. I have things right.” And it says a lot about you and likely how you lead your teams so vulnerably.


You know, a mistake and we all make mistakes. And I think that's a lesson to anybody who's listening is whatever level you're at, at whatever business you're in, whatever stage your walk of life, you're gonna make mistakes and you will continue to make mistakes.


You're not gonna avoid them, but it's absolutely how you handle those situations. Once you make those mistakes, only you know, what you did in that was a win, right? Was owning the mistake. You could have just stonewalled it and said yeah, I was just trying to be helpful and not really owned up and started asking questions. I think though, that's huge. I guess what I'm wondering is on an individual level that's incredibly powerful to be a leader and a senior leader in your business who asks questions, who listens, who watches their presumptions, and also owns and checks in on their mistakes.


How do you, as a leader of the people function of your business, support your business to do that? Cause you guys have grown rapidly over the last year plus and it's remote and so you have all these new people coming in, you have all these new people leading people and people working in different situations and it's probably at different time zones.


Just gives me a headache to think about how do you actually get other people to do that?


Anitra: It's a great question and it's, I don't, I don't have the magic bullet and I wish I, or the magic answer.


Aaron: Man. I was hoping for one today.


Anitra: Yeah. I don't have the magic answer for that, but, I think it starts, with onboarding.


We always lead our, our first session for onboarding is about working at ThreeFlow. And we spend time talking about how we work, the tools we use, our values. And we think that's important from day one because those are gonna be the things that drive a lot of the work. And so one of our core values is grow together.


And I think having that as a core value, is very much aligned with what we're talking about, right? We, we know you're gonna make mistakes. That's a true thing. We want you to grow from them and make better mistakes next time. And so for us, having that be front and center as something that is core to who we are and core to the work that we do.


And as part of your evaluation, we ask about the core values. And that to me is the start of it. Being open; being humble. Work with respect is one of ours. Those things are important. And you'll hear me say this a lot in other places too. I talk about values all the time. They are very important to me and my ability to succeed as a people leader is I need to be at a company that has values that I agree with and that are actually decision points in the organization. This is how we live.


We actually care and use these things in our day-to-day work. Helping people understand that this is a core part of being here is to be able to ask those questions to learn and make it safe to ask questions. It's another thing we talk about very soon in onboarding and that I talk about with folks just generally as we're chatting.


It is okay to ask questions even when you think it's something you're supposed to know the answer to, because again, by asking questions and remaining open and vulnerable and reminding yourself and others you don't know everything is important and then modeling that behavior. And so we have a lot of channels in Slack where people can just go in and ask random questions about things.


And I think I have a really great executive team, that because this is so much of who we are, that we try to be open, that we try to be vulnerable, and that we've all agreed we care to learn, we care to get better. And you can't get better without that vulnerability, without asking the questions, without checking for understanding that it has become, part of the fabric I think of who we are in the organization. And It's really one of the things that's exciting about working here. Because I know that I can ask and sometimes I'm asking questions that I feel like I really should know the answer to. And I'm a senior leader and I don't wanna look dumb, but it's not looking dumb and it's actually dumber when you're pretending to know something and then you get called out on it.


And so I've learned that's not a thing I wanna do, but I think because it's part of our values and we encourage and, celebrate the asking of questions, and we encourage and celebrate the, you didn't get this right and you've made a switch and we're doing something better. And cool. Great. We do our retros and it just has to become a part of your processes and the way that you work and the way that you evaluate others and the way that you celebrate others.


Otherwise it's lip service and that's how you do it in a remote or hybrid or in-person organization. I just think in a remote organization it's a lot more about asynchronous written ways to do that, which Slack and knowledge management- we use Confluence - those kind of tools allow you to make those marks and keep a record of what's happened.


Aaron: Yeah, and I think values get talked about a lot and it's easy for them, as you said, to be lip service or to be idealistic, right? Like we might mean all the best for them.


Anitra: Yes.


Aaron: I think some of the things that I've heard, and, please correct me, I get to listen and hear some of the gold nuggets that you share is like one, these values need to be like what we've done and what makes good values is they need to be actionable.


They need to be incorporated into the fabric of the business and how we onboard, evaluate, celebrate people, you also said they're, decision guides for us. You might have called them decision points. One of those things where we're like, we can look and make a hard decision based off of our values.


And the other one that I heard through this too, and I, I've started to notice it in organizations that truly value a learning culture and a growth culture is, one of the values ties closely to having a growth mindset. So as you said, grow together, and the way you described it was about being a learner, about making mistakes, about taking a growth mindset.


And I think that's, kind of like a, a little gem that I've started to see in organizations that don't just say it, but are ones that, one of their values is, is about being a learner.


Anitra: And I'd say it, I'll just give a tangible example of how we used that. We, over the past year, Looked at our benefits, asked our employees what they really wanted, and tried to make some decisions being financially responsible.


But how would we make some decisions about what benefits we might offer in the future? And we had limited resources to be able to make big changes. But one of the things that we felt really strongly about was, starting a learning and development stipend. That's because we grow together and we know that we don't have the resources right now to provide a ton of LinkedIn learning or other platforms, life labs, and bring in a bunch of stuff.


Which I think are excellent ways to do it. We just are doing different things with the resources we have, but we thought it was really important to make sure that We put something behind this idea and this value and, we developed a whole benefits philosophy and helped the organization understand how we were making trade-offs about things that we could and couldn't offer.


And one of the tenets in this set of guiding principles, for lack of a better term, is we wanna do things that are aligned with our values. And one of our key values is to grow together. And therefore we wanna make sure that we are offering something as a benefit to our team that allows them to really dig into that in a very tangible way.


Aaron: It's really walking the talk. You're making business, business decisions based on your values and then being able to point that out to your team and it's, it's just such a reinforcer and, it's supportive, right? It's like a helpful decision-making tool. I think that's really powerful.


I'm just, thank you for sharing that example. ‘Cause that makes a lot of sense. And for people who are listening, it's like, well I gotta do all this benefit stuff and I gotta do this and that, or we gotta plan this offsite. And it's like, it's so easy to get into the doing without looking at the why or the purpose behind it.


Anitra: Absolutely.


Aaron: This is just a great reminder too, if you're planning that or if you're gonna do a free lunch for everybody, or if you're gonna send everyone a Starbucks gift card ‘cause they're remote or whatever it is. Having some intention and how it connects if your values are something that you live into, tying it back or making that decision of what do we do based on that?


Anitra: Yes. And I've found particularly, in this environment where people are becoming cost conscious, capital efficient, and you wanna do things with less, you can tell a really great story when you do things with intention, and you can sell the opposite, listen, I, I'm not gonna give you all free GrubHub cards.


I, I wish I could, I think that's a great perk, particularly for remote people. So I'm not knocking the value in that. but I can't do all of the things and so I wanna be really intentional and here's how I make that decision. So you understand that there is thought that goes behind this.


And if I do give everyone a $25 gift card for lunch. That's also a great answer. It's just telling the story behind it. I'm not doing it because everyone else is. Even our medical benefits, I'm not doing it because everyone else is. I'm doing it because one of our key tenets is we wanna make sure that everyone has a safety net for anything catastrophic and like your health is part of that.


From a finance perspective, it's why we have a 401k. So when it's not catastrophic, but we expect at some point you're gonna retire and we wanna give you a vehicle through which you can make sure that you prepare for that. Telling the story, and I think storytelling in HR, in general is really powerful.


Telling a story about why you're doing a thing or why you're not doing a thing. Can be incredibly respectful. and it's this concept that I talk about a lot, responsible transparency. I don't need to tell you every single thing about all the things that we're doing, but really being clear about the decisions you make and why, and

I can point to, you know, these values we talk about all the time. Collaborating enthusiastically. This is why we do this versus a thing that's going to, something else. And so leaning into that, really believing in your values, using them, and then talking to people about the why or the why not, goes back to that communication point.


Lot of stuff just starts and ends with communication.


Aaron: It comes back full circle. And I, I just, I love the idea of responsible transparency. It changes the frame from like, when am I sharing too much with my people this is my take. When I first hear that, even just that phrase is, it's my responsibility to give transparency to my people.


And it, it's my benefit. The more I do that as a business leader, the more they get a fuller, better picture to understand the decision process and then act within it.


Anitra: I think that's right, that responsible piece also is a lot about context, so I can open up my books, but without context, that's not as helpful. And so I think about this idea of responsible transparency as not just being transparent about the thing, but about the why of the thing and the how of the thing and the alternatives of the thing that you could have presented or led with.


It's not just about displaying. It is about displaying with context and with values and displaying with explanation. Not just leaving a thing out there to be misinterpreted, misunderstood, and, sometimes it's just not about sharing everything all at once. I know that for some organizations that works well.


And again, it's not a knock, it's just for me in my organization and where I've been, I like the caveat of it is not just about throwing things out there to be open for interpretation. It is also providing the context and the lenses through which people can see why things are the way that they are and what else that we may have considered that led to things.


And it also allows people to ask questions. Making that space for questioning.


Aaron: Yeah, you don't want to confuse transparency with clarity. Transparency.

It can create confusion if it's...


Anitra: Absolutely


Aaron: …like, and I've been looking at a financial model for 10 plus years, right? so I share with my team and expect them to understand it, and they look at it and like, what the hell?


And they might find one number in there and be like, what's going on? Right? So it's


Anitra: exactly, exactly


Aaron: …the context, the how, I love how you said, displaying transparency with context and intentionality, and I just think that's an important, not caveat, but an important element of how you're talking about responsible transparency.


My page of, of notes is just full. There are so many gold nuggets here. Like, I knew we were gonna have a good conversation. I didn't realize we're gonna get so deep and with so much, all I could say is thank you and thank you for some new language for me that I can now take and share with others.


Anitra: I, I appreciate it. Responsible transparency is something I learned working at Teach for America with a woman named Keisha Hudson, who's no longer with us, but it's something that stuck with me, through my time. So you are welcome to use it, and it's been great talking to you as well. And I think you've done an amazing job.


Like you make my words sound so much smarter. So thank you.


Aaron: This was a blast. Thank you for coming on.


Anitra: Thanks so much.


Aaron: Raising The Bar on Leadership is produced by Raise The Bar, where we help organizations level up by empowering their managers with the tools, skills, and training to be better leaders of people. You can get in touch with us at raisebar.co.



Thank you for listening and go put your learning into practice.

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