Trust is one of the most important things in a working relationship. I often think about sports, and how the framework of a team compares to business. I know this may seem cliché, but it is also fundamental to an organization’s ability to outperform expectations. When individuals gel as a team and respect one another’s role and commitment, the impossible can happen. When they work as individuals or second guess one another, efficiency drops and the impossible remains impossible.
Throughout the last year and a half, business leaders have been challenged to find ways to foster personal and professional relationships with their direct reports and colleagues — ultimately, elevating mutual trust and maintaining an environment where everyone can continue to do their best work. Unfortunately, in some well known organizations we’ve seen a trust gap emerge between senior leaders and office and frontline workers. As hybrid work work models become more ubiquitous, leaders that fail to address these gaps will struggle to attract and retain key talent or remain competitive as market dynamics continue to evolve.
How will the return to the office and new hybrid work policies impact the trust built between executives and distributed workers? To help me answer that question— and prepare for the next potential disruption to business continuity in the future of work— I recently read Bob Iger’s book, “The Ride of a Lifetime,” where he shared lessons learned after growing his career from his early days at ABC through serving as the CEO of the Walt Disney Company for 15 years. There were many insightful takeaways from his experience as he grew from an individual contributor to a leader, and these lessons can be translated into how we move forward with a post-pandemic workplace. One takeaway that stood out to me was how being a successful leader means leading with integrity and trust: trust in your team, their commitment to your vision, and in their individual capabilities.
Here’s how I am implementing this practice with my team at Fuze:
Lead with integrity and go beyond transparency and empathy.
Maintaining transparency and empathy is only the first step in being a great leader. We know it takes trust for flexible workforces to thrive; according to our recent Flex Survey, less than half of frontline workers believe management has become more trusting of remote work, and 70% of senior leaders believe their management team has demonstrated trust while working remotely. While being honest, upfront, and vulnerable allows employees to feel understood and make way for stronger relationships, you have to take it a step further to facilitate real, long-lasting trust.
At some point in their careers, many leaders will have to make decisions that define who they are. The decision making process starts with clearly articulating the “what” and the “why”, which is then quickly followed by having a willingness to listen— and being willing to consider diverse perspectives as you make decisions. Being empathetic, inclusive, and doing what’s right can have a long-standing impact on establishing a leader's integrity and reputation. Every conversation and interaction as a leader needs to be thoughtful and purposeful.
Stay connected to your team, and the people who matter.
No matter what industry you’re in, every business leader needs to create pathways for strong and collaborative communication. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen how a lack of transparency or direct communication negatively affected the overall productivity and performance of some organizations. Creating a working environment without barriers for collaborative interaction and consensus building is critical to success. This starts with establishing a collaborative operating rhythm that is enabled by making the right communication technology investments. Business leaders need to be smart about how they foster interaction up, down, and across their organizations.
The tools we adopt for communication represent the one technology that touches everyone within the organization, no matter the role. This is especially true as we look at employee experience and engagement in a hybrid work schedule. The biggest asset within your organization are your people, so maintaining a strong, sincere connection should be your top priority.
Micromanaging hurts your hybrid workforce relationships.
You have to trust those you work with and hire. 54% of workers believe management is more accepting of remote work now, given our collective experience over the last year and a half. As we move into a new unknown that is likely to uncover resource management and capacity planning challenges, leaders need to trust those they hired to do their jobs correctly and not micromanage their teams’ daily tasks.
Organizations are responsible for establishing policies and business practices that enable their employees to succeed and thrive in this new flexible work arrangement. As some (or all) of a company returns to the office and schedules and expectations shift, if you continue to lead with integrity and trust your people, you will bridge any potential trust gap.
This is the first in a series of posts based on some of my key takeaways from Bob Iger’s book. Keep an eye out for the next blog in the series, titled: innovate or die.