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Clare Spratt

Netley Consulting

People Development Consultant and Facilitator 

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How trust based leadership can ensure a successful return to work for furloughed workers

Why a trust based approach to leadership is essential as we head back to the office.

It is a universal truth that business success – and business failure – is determined by people. If your people understand the strategy, are clear on roles and responsibilities, communicate regularly and honestly, and feel empowered to do their best work, then your business is headed for success. If, on the other hand, your people are confused about outcomes, team unity and cohesion is absent, and information is withheld, either consciously or unconsciously, you’re headed for disaster.

People do their best work when they feel safe, and when they are appreciated for the unique contribution they make.

So, while developing your people and nurturing a high-performance culture has always been vital in business, it is especially critical now as the furlough scheme winds up and companies everywhere re-board furloughed colleagues, try to ensure a successful return to work for all, and endeavour to bounce back strongly from the pandemic.

Trust based leadership can help you succeed when facing a situation like this, because it creates a psychologically safe workplace that allows people to truly be themselves, freely share concerns and identify friction points before they become major pain points. This, in turn, has the potential to unlock personal breakthroughs, leading to team and business breakthroughs that can increase productivity and achieve business goals.

What is trust based leadership?

Trust features prominently in all leadership models as the foundation upon which everything is built. There are many variations, but it all comes down to leaders treating people fairly and ensuring comfort at a human level. This creates a culture where people feel confident, are open to growth opportunities and learn through taking risks, and where they can express new ideas, innovate and achieve breakthroughs.

For colleagues who have been furloughed during the pandemic, perhaps they need reassurance that they are still valued team members and have an important role to play. Retained workers – those who continued to work during lockdown periods – may require recognition for their ongoing efforts during the pandemic. Meanwhile, anyone transitioning back to the physical workplace may feel anxious about new working arrangements.

Why is trust based leadership important?

People do their best work when they feel safe, and when they are appreciated for the unique contribution they make. That’s because, people are hard-wired to fight, flight or freeze when they perceive a real or imagined threat – including being chastised, humiliated or disciplined. When you understand how to create the space for trust to develop in your culture, use behaviours to express authenticity and understand what your people need from you, you create a safe and trusted relationship. When you encourage that behaviour across an organisation, you create a safe and trusted environment – or culture – and that’s what leads to business breakthroughs.

So, how can you put all this into practice and support your people during the next transition?

1. Encourage understanding

Everyone gathers information differently – either through their senses or in a more abstract, intuitive way. People also process information differently – either based on logic and data or based on how they feel and the potential impact on others. People also have different preferences for social interaction, based on where their get their energy from – through quiet, self-contained reflection or surrounded by others and enthusiastically bouncing ideas around. These differences can come together to produce the most incredible innovations and advancements – and they can stop progress dead in its tracks. By understanding and appreciating everyone in the team, you can create a high performing, trusting environment where creativity can lead to business breakthroughs and business objectives can be regularly set and achieved.

2. Have clear roles and responsibilities

Remember that saying, ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’? Well, it’s true. Before you start any new piece of work, come together as a team and co-create a detailed plan. What is the destination point? What are your strategies for getting there? What are the key milestones along the way? What are the roles you each play and the aligned responsibilities?

Look at the different abilities and preferences in the team and remind everyone of the value they each bring. Ensure you spend sufficient time discussing the plan, listen to what is being said and ensure everyone is clear on the final decisions – but remember to be flexible if circumstances change.

3. Encourage an open and honest dialogue

An open, honest and regular dialogue is essential as communications can often be misinterpreted. Hold regular meetings, record and share decisions and actions. Establish a central communications channel or ‘single source of truth’ to ensure visibility and clarity. Make sure that management surfaces and resolves real or perceived issues quickly and completely.

The language we use is also key. Where possible, de-personalise language and explain what you’re experiencing. Share your communications preferences with colleagues and learn theirs, then make an effort to move toward them. By taking a 5% step towards the preference of others, we are 10% more aligned – and that makes a huge difference. That’s 10% more effective communications, 10% more trust, 10% more harmony in a team, 10% more productivity, and 10% better collaboration.

4. Build a trusting team culture

A great way to show your team you trust them – and actually do – is by asking for ideas, discussing them together and implementing the best ones. Step back and encourage your team to take their ideas forward but let them know you’re there for support if needed.

Replace blame with curiosity by de-personalising failures and focusing instead on why it went wrong. What can be learned from the experience? What could be done differently next time? How could this experience support others to achieve better outcomes next time?

When tasks are delivered, take the opportunity to remind everyone how the idea came about, the role everyone played, and the contributions made – and then celebrate as a team.

Follow these simple recommendations and you’ll be demonstrating trust based leadership skills that will help your people feel valued and respected, and help you return to work quickly and bounce back after Covid-19.

Interested in this topic? Read Why trust is the future of the employee experience.

One Response

  1. I feel that trust is a huge
    I feel that trust is a huge part of leadership role with an employee. Especially when addressing furloughs. I felt that I had so much trust with my manager an director upon returning after furlough and the pandemic. I am truly grateful to have those two strong relationships!

Author Profile Picture
Clare Spratt

People Development Consultant and Facilitator 

Read more from Clare Spratt

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