Recent research from the University of Bath shows that trust in leaders remained high during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. As we enter the next phase of living and working alongside Covid-19, how do we maintain those same levels of trust?
Research suggests that trust is likely to play an even bigger role in how effective your leaders and their teams are in the coming months. For virtual teams, high trust is positively correlated with team performance. When you think about it, it’s not surprising. If managed poorly, virtual teams can suffer from a reduction in performance due to communication issues, lack of clarity and lack of context.
In our current context, some of these issues may become even more manifest as leaders and teams deal with temporary school closures, restrictions on work and ongoing health concerns.
The good news is that research points to ways in which we can enhance our relationships with our teams and build even greater levels of trust. By adopting these five simple practices, we can minimise the concerns associated with virtual teams and maintain trust across the organisation.
- Focus on the results that your team should achieve.
The ways of achieving results are being altered by the dizzying pace of events. It is a good time to abandon micro-management which, by the way, helps neither confidence nor outcomes. Re-establish short-range objectives and test how they are met. Create clear team metrics that everybody understands and accepts. Resist the temptation to ‘reward’ good work and high productivity with extra work and heightened expectations.
- Clearly communicate context.
While goals are vital, context is everything in a virtual world. As your team consider how best to achieve their goals, they are making small decisions at each step of the process. Providing clear context supports their ability to make decisions and displays trust in them.
- Follow-up more often than you think you should.
Report to your team daily. You have (or should have) better access to more information than they do, while they are more isolated from the day-to-day goings-on that they have been used to. Keep them up to date on the decisions that are being made. Done properly, it’s hard to over-communicate.
- Don’t assume anything.
While the office is much maligned, one of it’s advantages is the casual access you have to colleagues (people stopping you as you pass, bumping into someone at the coffee machine). This access is typically how your team get to check understanding, confide concerns or misgivings, share thoughts and ideas etc. Just as your team may have been reluctant to set up a formal meeting to discuss something in the office, expect that your team are unlikely to set up a formal online meeting or call to have an informal chat. Consider a weekly check-in call, initiated by you, with no agenda other than ‘how is everything going?’.
- Be kind.
This is still new to your team and there are as many reactions as there are team members. But people’s need for psychological safety remains constant. That’s why your number one priority must be to reassure your team that you’re there for whatever they need, that you trust them, and that you know that they’re doing their best.
This is all new to you too. You’re expected to support your team in new ways of working while at the same time trying to come to terms with the impact that this is having on you professionally and personally. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability; let your team know that you too are doing your best.
Bob Lee is a member of the Leadership and Management Development Team at HPC.
He is a highly skilled facilitator and he brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge in organisational culture, specialising in the complex topic of trust.
Bob has been recognised as part of ‘Trust Across America Top Thought Leaders in Trust’, as well as being a sought-after international conference speaker, and best-selling author of Trust Rules: How the World’s Best Managers Create Great Places to Work.