How to build trust with your team, no matter where they work

The new hybrid work model is here to stay. According to the latest data from Gallup, 67% of office workers currently work from home at least part of the time. What’s more, 49% of remote workers say they’d look for a new job if their employer forced them back into the office full time.

In coaching sessions I have seen how many employers and managers are uncomfortable with this change. But ultimately the success or failure of the hybrid work model comes down to trust. Managers must trust their team members to get the job done, and team members must trust that their managers have their best interests in mind when making decisions. Sadly, only 1 in 3 employees trust their managers. Lack of trust in the workplace reduces productivity and substantially increases employees’ risk of leaving, which is undoubtedly contributing to the “great resignation” that many businesses are currently experiencing.

Yet, the reality is it’s easier to trust people we see more frequently. As such, the hybrid work model is certain to exasperate the trust problem between managers and their team’s unless managers develop their trust skills.

Below are some of the most powerful ways you can increase trust with your team members regardless of where they work.

Align on expectations

Trust is established when people consistently meet their expectations of one another. When trust is broken and relationships fail, it’s usually because expectations were unspoken and not agreed to. The first step toward building a foundation of trust is to agree on the most important things each party needs from the other to be successful and enjoy their work. For example, managers and their team members may want to set expectations around work quality, mistake accountability, providing each other with feedback, and rewards for employees’ good performance.

Establish a regular meeting routine (in person or virtually)

Regularly scheduled 121 meetings are an essential leadership tool that builds trust and enables managers to help their team members stay accountable. 121 meetings is focused time to review projects, to ensure follow through and that direct reports have what they need to be successful. Studies have shown that regular progress meetings increase goal achievement by 95%, and that employee engagement is highest when employees meet weekly with their managers.

No blame

Nothing destroys trust quicker than blame. Blame triggers the fight or flight response shutting down the part of the employee’s brain that controls problem solving. The irony of blaming people for problems is that doing so shuts down their ability to solve the very problems for which they are being blamed! When things go wrong, poor leaders ask, “Who’s at fault?” Good leaders build trust by resisting the urge to blame and instead ask, “Where did the process break down?”

Own and admit mistakes

When things go wrong, it takes confidence and courage to look in the mirror to see how your actions or inaction may have contributed to the problem. However, the courage to take accountability for problems is the price of leadership. In fact, it is quite possibly the most powerful way to earn the trust and respect of others precisely because it is so difficult. Taking accountability for problems creates an culture of trust that makes it safe for everyone to follow suit by admitting how they contributed to problems and focusing on solutions.

Request feedback

One of the quickest ways to increase trust with another person is to ask them for feedback on how you can improve. This demonstration of vulnerability by a leader creates an environment where everyone feels safer to admit weaknesses and ask for feedback. However, asking for feedback only creates the psychological safety necessary for trust to thrive if managers accept feedback with gratitude instead of defensiveness.


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