The infrastructure of any solid relationship is trust. While certainly true in evet sphere of your life, it’s essential in the workplace. After all, it’s been found that employees working in high-trust environments have reported:
- 76% more engagement
- 74% less stress
- 70% more alignment with their companies’ purpose compared to employees in low-trust environments
- 50% higher productivity
Moreover, numerous studies have found that trust is critical to team success. And, this is most true as remote managers are struggling with trust issues during COVID-10. Thankfully, you can use the following 7 strategies to turn this around.
1. Mitigate your team’s stress.
According to author and leading trust expert Paul Zak, stress is one of the most forceful oxytocin inhibitors. Why’s that important? Well, oxytocin is the hormone that’s responsible for social and romantic bonding.
As such, this chemical is kind of important when building trust with your team. Specifically, it helps teams work and grow together. And that can completely transform the workplace for the better.
“In my research, I’ve found that building a culture of trust is what makes a meaningful difference,” wrote Zak. “Employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies.”
“They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance,” he added. So, yeah. This just makes sense.
But how exactly can you reduce workplace stress?
For starters, stop micromanaging your team. Instead, grant autonomy by letting them work however and whenever they want. Since they’re currency WFH, this is key since it can make work-life integration easier — like juggling work and homeschooling their kids.
Additionally, make it a point to communicate with them regularly. Regardless if it’s a quick phone call, weekly Zoom check-in, or through Slack, this gives you a chance to acknowledge them or address any concerns.
What’s more, you should make yourself available so that you can provide guidance. For example, if they’re struggling with time management, which is a stressor that 46% of employees, then offer advice on how they can fix this problem.
You should also encourage them to take time off and be respectful of their boundaries. That means not bombarding them with messages when they’re off-the-clock. And give them access to mindfulness apps like Calm.
2. Serve up the feedback sandwich.
Giving credit where it’s due is a proven way to build trust in the workplace. In fact, a Globoforce study found that those who received recognition from their leaders recently were significantly more likely to trust them (82% vs. 48%).
Here’s the thing, though. Eventually, singing your team members praises loses meaning. Studies actually show that “negative” feedback (if delivered appropriately) is more helpful than positive reinforcement.
The reason? People want to learn and grow. And, they want to be challenged, not cuddled.
A simple way to achieve both types of feedback is using the sandwich method. Here you would deliver feedback as follows; positive, constructive, positive.
Why does this work? Because you’re kicking and ending things on a positive note. At the same time, you’re also delivering honest and constructive feedback.
3. Get to (virtually) know your team members.
The cornerstone of fortifying any relationship is getting to know the other person. And, by that, I mean getting to know them outside of the workplace. Even if that’s regularly meeting with them in person, it’s having frequent and informal chats with them via text, email, or scheduled “coffee” meetings through Zoom.
While you don’t want to cross any lines here, ask them how they’re doing. Inquire about their hobbies, passions, or how their family has been. It sounds simple. But, spending a couple of minutes each week getting to know each team member helps you bond over similar interests while showing that you genuinely care about them as a person.
4. Make sure that your goals, objectives, and intentions are crystal clear.
Not to be too crass here. But, this is leadership 101. Always make sure that you always do this from jump street.
For instance, let’s say that when a team member has completed their portion of a project, they must notify the project manager. That may not sound like a biggie, but what is the preferred channel here? If it’s through Slack, but they sent an email, that could cause bottlenecks and lots of ibuprofen for the headaches this caused.
In short, make sure that you share your goals, objectives, and intentions with your team. More importantly, double-check that they understand them so that you’re all on the same page.
5. Be competent but also vulnerable.
“Trust in leadership is also based on a leader’s demonstration of on-the-job expertise and ability,” writes executive coach Dina Denham Smith. “In virtual teams where people can feel disconnected, strong communication is an especially critical leadership skill, one on which your competence will be judged and trust built or diminished.”
While you certainly do not want to cause information overload, “there’s no such thing as over-communicating,” adds Denham Smith. After all, “if you don’t communicate frequently and clearly, your people will fill in the blanks with their own, usually worst-case, assumptions.” Additionally, you need to be open about your expectations and transparent “on company direction, policies, and procedures, including the decision-making process.”
At the same time, admit that you don’t have all the answers. You should even own-up to your mistakes. And, if you need help, ask for it.
“While it may seem counterintuitive, leaders who ask for help draw others to them through this display of humanness, inspire others by making them feel needed and garner trust and followers,” adds Denham Hill.
6. Freshen up your virtual events and meetings.
Even though virtual meetings have been around for years, they’ve become the status quo thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. While an adequate way to keep-in-touch and build rapport, they’re also exhausting. However, you can spruce them up to establish trust while also bolstering morale.
If you need some ideas, Calendar Co-Founder John Hall has the following suggestions:
- Get underway by acknowledging your team’s achievements or sharing a joke.
- Host theme events, like a holiday party or virtual lunches where participants share their favorite recipes.
- Conduct weekly check-ins to provide updates or ask how everyone is holding up.
- Always follow virtual meeting etiquette, like muting your mic when not speaking.
- Encourage silent brainstorming sessions.
- Organize virtual team-building activities such as fitness challenges or “happy hour.”
- Keep them engaged by challenging them. For example, you could ask how they’ve overcome a problem in the past.
- Shake things up occasionally, like surprising them by taking a virtual field trip or inviting a guest speaker.
- Schedule events when it’s best for your team. While you’ll never find the perfect time and date, you could poll them to see what works best for the majority.
- Wrap each function up on a high note. For instance, you could ask positive-direction questions like, “What did you find most valuable?”
7. Be consistent.
According to Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, there are three elements of trust; positive relationships, good judgment/expertise, and consistency. I think that you should have an idea about the first two. So, let’s go over what consistency means.
Consistency “is the extent to which leaders walk their talk and do what they say they will do,” they explain for HBR. “People rate a leader high in trust if they:
- Are a role model and set a good example.
- Walk the talk.
- Honor commitments and keep promises.
- Follow through on commitments.
- Are willing to go above and beyond what needs to be done.
While this may not be the most important element, it’s still essential. For example, let’s say that you penciled in a one-on-one for Thursday at 3 pm. You had a family emergency and didn’t let the team member know you had to reschedule.
Your team member arrives on time and patiently waits. After some time has passed, they email you, and you reply that you had to cancel. That’s not only disrespectful of their time; it also shows them that you can’t be trusted to hold-up your end of the bargain.
[Related: The Best Leadership Skills for the Holidays]