Building trust in an uncertain world


In recent months we have experienced change on a scale that could never been imagined let alone planned for. As Leaders and Managers, we are now asking our people to perform in very unusual circumstances, where the only certainty is uncertainty. More than ever before inspirational leadership and motivational management is crucial to support and inspire our people to perform and develop. Making sure teams can still operate as cohesive units delivering results whilst keeping everyone safe and well needs to be at the forefront of our thinking.

What risks are posed to organisations when there is an absence of trust?

We are asking and expecting a lot from our people. Home working, virtual communication, new technologies, isolation, less contact with colleagues are just some of the work changes. Add to this the domestics challenges like risk to our health, home schooling and turning your home into a “work-space”. This has created difficulties not faced before, employees have reduced access to mangers, make more decisions themselves, self-motivate, and are unable to get help from close colleagues.

Without trust there’s less innovation, collaboration, creative thinking, and productivity, and people spend their time protecting themselves and their interests.

To form strong cohesive teams, we have to think through ways to build these strong foundations of trust whilst leading, managing and supporting our people to meet these challenges and thrive. You may have already heard about the work of Lencioni, he highlights trust as the very foundation that is needed to build high functioning teams.

You’ll notice at the top of Lencioni’s model is inattention to results, this presents a further challenge for Managers - how do we manage performance with little or no opportunity to physically observe people working? This puts a greater emphasis on trust as Managers have to trust their people to be productive. Mangers need to meet this uncertainly and discomfort with positivity, leading by example and show passion to continue to motivate our people.  

The opportunities gifted to leaders right now include building trust in adversity,  focusing on the important things that matter, committing to the new ways of working, generating safe spaces to try creative solutions to new problems and appreciating our colleagues differences.

What can leaders do to generate trust and build successful teams?

  • Creating a suitable working environment 

Employee’s need to feel safe in order to relax and perform, without being afraid to make mistakes. Give them the tools to solve problems together, such as organising virtual action learning sessions.

  • Prioritise building trust

Encourage people to own work, and learn from their mistakes, make it easy to ask for help, set up opportunities for them to challenge your thinking, encourage the taking of reasonable risks, openly share feedback, use one another’s skills, don’t waste time on politics and get people excited about your virtual team meetings, with dynamic pre-prepared agendas that include some fun.

  • Encourage collaboration

If your team members trust one another, they’re far more likely to share knowledge, and communicate openly.

Give people opportunity and support to work in collaboration, appreciating each other’s views and solve problems together. This is a great opportunity to introduce internal coaching, which works well on virtual platforms.  

  • Clearly Communicate

Make your communication simple, clear and frequent. Get weekly team meetings planned in, rotate the facilitator, make performance clear and visible, increase and maximise rewards for things that go well, ‘nip the problems in the bud’ and create learning sessions for dealing with mistakes. Make all these sessions enjoyable, people need something to look forward to. 

  • Beef up your ‘one to one’ discussions. 

Make sure people have simple and clear short-term goals with regular and frequent review. Include open and constructive two-way feedback. Encourage your people to tell you what they think and what ideas they have for improvement. 

  • Check-in

“Checking-in” on colleagues is sometimes negatively portrayed as micromanagement and can make individuals question the manager's levels of trust – However, set aside some informal time in the diary to check how people are feeling, encourage conversations on values, family, or hobbies and show your support on a personal level.

Blog is written by Kevin Christie, USW facilitator. 


Forbes, The New Normal.

Patrick Lencioni – The five dysfunctions of a team

This blog is part of the Change Maker series. The Change Maker programme is a series of blogs, podcasts and virtual learning sessions to help people and organisations to navigate through a time of unprecedented change. To find out how the Change Maker programme can help re-engage your teams, start the conversation with us or click here to find out more.

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