Trust is a key foundation of leadership. It is needed for transformative action in times of uncertainty; the COVID-pandemic being a perfect example.
For leaders to establish trust with their teams, they must take appropriate action through preparation and planning – there’s a lot of factors to consider and it’s not always easy to please everyone. To actually sustain trust, leadership requires ongoing accountability, transparency and togetherness. As the pandemic continues to drag on, trust also requires leaders to offer hope and a credible vision for the future.
Alarmingly, studies have shown that one in three employees don’t trust their employer. So, as a leader, what steps can you take to ensure that’s not the case?
Show empathy and appreciation
It’s crucial that leaders speak openly and honestly about the uncertainties that exist. But that’s not to say empathy should be overlooked; in fact, it’s the most important part of maintaining trust.
Strong empathic responses are key when employees’ lives are so disrupted. This means leaders should acknowledge the illness, the interruptions and the specific personal impacts of lockdown and restrictions. This will help develop a deep connection with employees.
While doing so, it’s also important to personally thank individuals in the business for their effort and commitment. As a result, any less favourable outcomes are more likely to be forgiven by the team, provided the decision-making was fair.
Always be honest
Delivering bad news isn’t always easy but being honest is something the most trustworthy leaders pride themselves on.
Perhaps you haven’t met your targets, or you’ve decided to let an employee go. Whatever the circumstances, it’s important to nip any hearsay and gossip in the bud. There’s nothing worse than not knowing how to read your manager, so being transparent helps reassure employees about where they stand. They will be more likely to respect you as a leader if you talk openly, are willing to answer questions and give the facts.
Also, being honest as a leader encourages employees to be honest in return. Bringing difficult topics to the table early on prevents problems further down the line.
Be proactive in offering support
Earn the respect of your team by helping them manage the personal challenges they’re facing in lockdown. Give them your time in the form of one-to-one meetings where they can receive your full attention. Find out what it is they need that will help make things easier; it could be related to finances, childcare, working hours, feedback and more. Proactively asking how you can help your team shows you truly care and want the best for them.
Leaders are human; they make mistakes, just like any of us do. Owning these mistakes is what helps you be more approachable and ‘likeable’. It removes leaders and senior employees from a pedestal and creates a positive culture which encourages learning and growth.
Foster a sense of community
Lastly, with lockdown forcing most of us into remote working, another way to develop trust is to encourage community within teams. Most employees miss the office banter and the face-to-face chat, so how can leaders help replicate this?
For a start, remote meetings should include time to catch up on a personal level – avoiding constant work chat. One-to-one catch ups between team members should also be encouraged, and that water-cooler chat can be replicated via Slack channels or instant messaging.
Ultimately, it’s all about creating positive relationships with your team. If you can get that right, the rest will follow. It’s important to be kind to yourself right now too; leading in a pandemic isn’t easy and mistakes are bound to be made. The crucial part is picking back up and leading with positivity.
If you’re struggling with keeping yourself motivated (let alone your team), have a read of another one of our blogs all about how to change your mindset at work.