Cellophane Transparency

Whenever we’re in a restaurant together my dad claims to be “Mr. Cellophane.” He says that people will look through him or past him just like he doesn’t exist. The problem is, he’s usually right. In his case, being transparent is not a good thing.

In the case of any leader, speaker, or writer, transparency is a good thing. These days people want genuine, honest, open, transparent leaders, speakers, and writers. Fake and formulaic is so “80’s.” Secrecy and false fronts are no longer acceptable after the days of Enron, the scandals of the Catholic Church, and internet viruses and spam.

I have noticed that in preaching sermons people have appreciated a generous peek into my less-than-perfect life. The day I spoke of the “terrible, horrible, no good, absolutely awful” week I had, and how the Word brought light and life into my darkness, positive comments about it almost doubled in comparison to many other sermons I preach. I was transparent. People were connected.

I have also observed people being very suspicious of leaders who seem to keep secrets. Secret keeping causes back room gossip, speculation, and anxiety. The more secrets the less cohesive a team or unit tends to be. The more secrets the less trust.

If you want to connect with an audience, team, or congregation, be transparent and honest. A number of years ago the local district of our church body had a budget that was deeply in the red. A new president came in and immediately instituted an open and transparent policy regarding budgeting, spending, and decision-making. Within a few short years the budget was back in balance and trust was developed throughout the district.

Granted, people don’t need to know every scar and wart of one’s background. Too much information is off-putting and just plain uncomfortable for an audience or team. But carefully chosen transparency is endearing and trust-building.

Being Mr. Cellophane in a restaurant may not be a good thing. Being Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Cellophane as a leader, speaker, or writer builds trust, confidence, and connection.

What insights do you have about transparency?



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2 thoughts on “Cellophane Transparency

  1. One of life's most valuable, usable lessons my dad ever taught me: "Pete … I always play my cards on the table for everyone to see." There was no trickery or deception with him. He didn't sneak around to get his way. "Politics" was forbidden in our household.

    One thing you may have missed, though, Tom: That kind of transparent honesty can be painful, too. It's the good kind of pain … the right and even "righteous" kind of pain. When sinner-Pete met up with transparent-Dad … that could smart. But it was the kind of "smart" that ended up making me a smarter person (sorry … groan).

    Here's to transparency!



    • You are absolutely right, Pete. I discovered just last night that there is pain involved in transparency. Some will like it; others will not. But it's a risk worth taking!