How’s the trust? – thoughts on leading with trust

Trust, the belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of others, is now, more than ever, a cornerstone leadership capability. To lead with trust in a world where the ability to assign tasks, monitor productivity, coach and support others has changed dramatically, affected by technology, remote working, dispersed teams and societal shifts and expectations collaborative work culture.

This trust challenge is further amplified by growing dis-trust in the world.  Even before recent events, research surveys highlighted the increasing distrust in political leaders, governments, and traditional institutions to be reliable and do the right things. The current pandemic crisis highlights breaches of trust in human behaviour (supermarket observations anyone) often having us question if human nature can truly collectively work as one and not for individual gain.

As our own sense of trust in the world and with each other wavers, we actually require leaders at all levels to lead and exemplify trust in others. Showing their belief in their people to continue to work productively, serve their customers, collaborate with each other is more important than ever. The cost of reacting and taking a self-serving or highly controlling approach to leadership will only serve to feed what should be only minority shifts to individualism during a time that desperately requires collectivism.

Whilst it is easy and considered more acceptable to espouse the idealistic view that “I am highly trusting of others”, the truth or veracity of that is being tested in all of us including those in leadership.

Different ways of building and maintaining trust with each other are now required, those in-person methods that draw on observation, non-verbal communication cues and intuition are dimmed when we are not in the presence of each other, but the principles remain the same.

Our thoughts for managing yourself and leading trustfully are provided below:

  • Role-model the way in working effectively in the new conditions – there is plenty of advice coming out about this topic. If this is a new challenge for you, experiment and lock-in what works (be it maintaining habits / patterns, focused work areas, disciplined time management, healthy distractions, etc …)
  • Recognise your starting point and beliefs – be brutally honest with your underlying beliefs about working from home – this is not the time to be ignorant or in denial of your assumptions about the effectiveness of people working remotely (that includes yourself!?)
  • Demonstrate proactive empathy for people’s individual needs, fears and anxieties – this will include a range of health, social contact, job, financial security and future concerns. Step into those discussions respectfully to appreciate where your people are truly at, as these issues will be impacting engagement and performance
  • Increase personal contact and connection – This is the time to authentically and impactfully increase the in-person (video or phone) interactions be they 1:1’s or virtual meetings. Your own “technical” / task work may need to be de-prioritised as you increase your people leadership efforts and interactions over the coming months
  • Transparent and straight communications are critical – Overshare information, keep people updated with business / team performance metrics, critical issues and potential business changes (confront the realities ahead)
  • Be clear on expectations – including engagement, connections, performance or productivity measures, your accessibility and the support available. This will form a “live” contract with you, the team and the organisation so continually review and reinforce these expectations
  • Keep your personal commitments and be deliberate even careful in what you are expecting of yourself through this time, what you take on and signal you will do
  • Practice and maintain accountability – Whatever the standards and agreements that are set (refer expectations), and recognising the need to be even more person-centred, flexible and adaptable, there will be non-negotiables in the quality of work, customer service or engagement required of your people

We trust that you’ve got this (did you see what we did there?), and envisage a true revolution in the way organisations and leaders will accommodate and promote flexible and remote working conditions in the post CV era. Our sense is that these extremely difficult times will actually result in greater self, relationship and organisational trust down the track as a result of us flexing our trust memory-muscles like never before.

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