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Why this CEO makes everything she does transparent to all employees

After being lied to and kept in the dark at previous companies, CEO Mathilde Collin decided she’d give her staff total access to everything.

Why this CEO makes everything she does transparent to all employees
[Photo: JESHOOTS.COM/Unsplash]

Ever wonder what your CEO does all day? Employees at the email collaboration software provider Front can tell you where CEO and cofounder Mathilde Collin is and what’s she’s doing because her calendar is made public.

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“It was shared since the beginning and never questioned whether it was a good idea or not,” says Collin. “Everything at Front—within the product and the company—is transparent by default, and everyone’s calendar is public.”

Collin is obsessed with transparency because, earlier in her career, a previous employer was less forthcoming. “They lied to us about how the business was doing,” she recalls. “They wouldn’t share revenue, or they would say we were doing amazing. I was in sales, and I could see we were not adding much money. It was traumatic when I learned the truth, so I did the opposite.”

Transparency increases productivity

While employees can track everything she is doing, Collin says her transparency helps her get more done. Her assistant schedules her calendar from from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Every day is different, and weeks are set up in advance.

“I always know what I’m doing, but there’s always flexibility,” she says. “I’ve been able to tell my assistant, ‘Here is how I want to spend time each week. When I do what doesn’t matter to me.'”

The calendar also includes time to think, read, and deal with email. “You have to make sure you’re not spending your entire week doing things, otherwise you never have freedom to think about spending time on the right things,” says Collin. “The biggest risk is of missed opportunities, so everything is on the calendar.”

At the end of the week, Collin’s assistant sends her a graph of how she spent her time. “If I want to be more efficient in managing time, the first step is knowing how I spend my time,” she says. “This allows me to course correct.”

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For example, Collin realized she was not spending enough time on executive hiring. “It’s always important and never urgent,” she says. “Now I spend at least 33% of my time interviewing or sourcing candidates.”

On the flip side, Collin realized she was spending more than half of her time in one-on-one meetings with direct reports. To be more efficient in this area, she places notes in a shared document that is accessed before the meeting so both parties are up to speed when they walk in.

Transparency helps with feedback

Transparency isn’t just for the CEO at Front; every employee’s calendar is made public, and Collin says this allows her to better help employees. “Knowing how other people spend their time is good for coordination, and it allows me to do a better job coaching,” she says. For example, Collin was able to see that a new team member didn’t spend enough time talking with customers.

“If we want to be a good company and have a good product, it’s important to talk to customers,” she says. “If I didn’t know how he spent his time, I couldn’t have given that feedback. I was able to share more insight to the employee, telling them what to do more of and what to do less of.”

Transparency at Front goes beyond calendars

In addition to sharing her calendar, Collin fosters a culture of transparency by having office hours where anyone is free to stop by and chat or ask questions. On Mondays, the company has an all-hands meeting, and employees can submit questions anonymously. “I answer every single question,” says Collin.

And each month, Collin gives a presentation to the entire company where she shares how things are going. “It’s important that everyone knows everything,” says Collin. “Our product is aimed at sharing as much as possible. Inboxes are public, and everyone can see every support request or customer review. People know the good and bad.”

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Dashboards show all of the company’s metrics, from churn rate to revenue. And Collin says she shares the company’s challenges and opportunities during the interview process. “Most companies tell all the good stuff but not challenges,” she says. “That creates a lose/lose situation.”

Transparency builds trust

Keeping her calendar transparent creates trust within the company, says Collin. “When you look at Front, we have high retention and ratings on Glassdoor,” she says. “Trust is a big reason why people are happy at work. It comes from lots of different things, not just sharing my calendar, but employees always know what I’m doing, and that creates less stress and more engagement.”

Sharing her calendar helps employees better connect with the company, says Collin. “My calendar is a good illustration of what’s going on in the company—from raising money to a big product push,” she says. “It provides employees with context about their own role, and it makes them more engaged in day-to-day work.”

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