Building Powerful Teams: Trust Webinar Highlights

Hanson Search has partnered with Formative Communications to provide a three-part webinar series delving into the principles behind Building Powerful Teams.

On 2nd November, we hosted the second part of the series, focusing on Trust. This panel was chaired by Alice Weightman, founder and CEO of Hanson Search, joined by Andrew Manasseh, Founder of Formative Communications, UK; Elvira Eilert Pignal, Managing Director at Teneo, France and Dean Aston, Senior Director and Global People Partner at Babylon Health, UK.

The topics that were up for discussion in this session:

  • How to measure the level of trust
  • How to build trust in this hybrid world
  • What are the warning sights of lack of trust?
  • What are the positive indicators of trust within a team?

How do you go about building powerful teams in a post-pandemic working world?

Firstly, we need to recognise that trusting teams outperform non-trusting teams and post-pandemic it is critical that we have psychological safety throughout working environments and embrace a culture of continuous improvement. In order to gain feedback, it's hugely important to ensure that people feel safe to do so. Tools that offer organisations the opportunity to measure employee engagement help with identifying areas that need to be worked on.

The working world has shifted over the last 18 months and trust is now far more important than presenteeism. How do we mould and create the right environment in this new hybrid way of working?

Firstly, leadership teams need to be clear in what they are talking about when they say trust. When people think about trust, they typically think about predicting a manager's behaviour or what they're going to do next – but it’s often more useful to consider trust more in terms of being vulnerable. Employees are naturally feeling vulnerable post-pandemic, coupled with the return to work, and it’s the responsibility of leaders to create a state of psychological safety in which people feel comfortable to open up and be very honest about how they're feeling. It's about being clear in terms of setting expectations and being accountable, and ultimately ensuring that your company culture enforces that.

Clear communication which lets people know what they can expect when they return to the office and channelling feedback from across the workforce so that people feel heard also helps in creating an environment of trust.

What are the key ingredients in building powerful teams?

Building trust and creating powerful teams is centred around four key factors; the general environment for what we do, the makeup of the teams, being open and receptive to appreciating different points of view and culture. Having maximum flexibility, ears open, and a level of humility are all key in successful team management.

Trust is still an incredibly nebulous concept – we need to define it and adjust it depending on what sort of environment we’re in and allow people to speak more, or less, about how they function. Coming out of the pandemic, vulnerability and being open to working differently will be incredibly important in building powerful teams.

What common mistakes do business leaders make around areas of trust?

Sometimes leaders’ perceived employee communication problems are actually more likely centred around trust. The first thing which team leaders need to consider is, ‘don’t think this won’t happen to me.’ If you’ve been newly recruited or promoted to lead a team this is your opportunity to set the stage and encourage those around you to make decisions and speak out. You also must start with the optimistic assumption that those around you want to do their best. Recognise that trust is going to be there and develop your radar in understanding what’s going on beneath the surface – be aware of warning signs like staff not volunteering to do tasks, or not contributing to discussions, or not coordinating with each other.

As a leader, you simply can’t do everything and it’s important to put some responsibility and accountability on the people around you.

What is trust? And what are the positive indicators we should be seeing?

The common interpretation of trust is often rooted in the meeting of expectations but as a leader, it’s more important to ensure that you show up in the right way. Part of that is being vulnerable, which is not the most comfortable space to be in when you start in a new role.

‘When we are not a trusting team, we do not feel like we can express any kind of vulnerability at work, we often feel forced to lie, hide and fake it to compensate for how we feel.’ Simon Sinek, The Infinite Game

If we look at cultures that are very successful the key indicators of that success are an honest, open, transparent environment where people feel comfortable to share their vulnerabilities and challenges – it’s important to instil a culture of psychological safety where people can speak up. In a culture where growth and trust are prevalent, this then starts to compound across the business, and this is where teams start to really outperform.

Trusting teams outperform non-trusting teams. If you’re a business that is scaling very fast, people can often fall into the habit of thinking only in terms of short-term performance – the priority is on delivery and output rather than vulnerability and trust. Teams are more likely to achieve their goals when they have a trusted environment – it’s hugely important to have a free and engaged workforce.

How can we cascade a culture of trust across different teams, business units, and leaders?

Connection between people is an incredibly important ingredient in building trust and it requires a base level of humanity and kindness – being a listener as well as a talker. There’s a lot of flexibility around the application of trust – trust in terms of the client relationship, trust in leadership and the protection of employee interests, also trust in demonstrating to managers that you are deserving of their trust.

How do we develop a culture in our new hybrid way of working to build powerful teams?

We have to start with the cultural values of the organisation as a baseline – the behaviours and principles. Ask how your systems and processes reinforce the ways in which you want people to behave and how do these align with your compensation and reward philosophy in terms of what behaviours you reward.

When new people come into a business, they are observing leadership and the stories that go with it. Irrespective of geography, everyone needs to be anchored to a purpose and a mission and this should be the starting point. Further to that, leaders must consider the employee experience. The first interaction that someone has with the brand is their onboarding process or talent acquisition funnel – so we need to ask how does that align with expectations and build trust? How does that reflect the values of the organisation?

If those key principles are set at a global level, it means that a business can get into a realm of scalability. A global engagement platform that captures feedback from across the organisation will help to optimise the employee experience globally and at scale to influence how leaders drive different parts of the culture.

Who is responsible for building powerful teams and trust?

As a team leader there are a number of questions you can ask yourself; do I set the stage and lead by example? Have I created a working environment that feels safe and secure? Do I share problems and admit some level of fallibility? Do I take time with individuals? And do I set ground rules when I’m in team situations? Do I acknowledge when people are contributing and reward it when it happens?

How important is diversity and being able to relate to leadership for a workforce?

Businesses need to ensure that they have scalable initiatives in place that cultivate and drive diversity. Ask how you build trust by understanding your colleagues and your manager better - and understand that everybody views diversity through a slightly different lens.

It’s great to drive and promote diversity but we also need to be aware of the layer below that which explores a variety of ways in which we can connect with how others work. Diversity of opinion is also very important – and it’s a manager’s responsibility to ensure that that is there, and that people feel safe to express their different views.

How can we prevent employee engagement surveys and measurements from being negatively perceived?

Leadership teams need to convey the intention behind the survey, which is largely to help to identify any root causes of any issues in the culture and also to identify where the business is doing well. In large organisations, you need to be able to quantify what is a priority and an engagement survey is a powerful and efficient way to do that. From a less formal perspective, once managers have cultivated a sense of psychological safety, people will naturally speak up and give feedback.

What are the most successful new leadership styles of working post-pandemic?

Trust is fundamental to the success of new hybrid ways of working, and there is a higher expectation for people to communicate more frequently and openly. In using a combination of emotional connection, data insights, and role modelling, leaders can cultivate an environment of trust and keep their teams engaged and motivated. In doing this, managers can also unlock the potential of their workforce, which will be key in the retention and attraction of talent. We've moved into a new social context where everything is driven by creativity, collaboration, innovation - and to cultivate that the baseline is trust.

If you would like to read further on the topics discussed here, we recommend the following books:

  • The Five Dysfunctions of the team: A Leadership Fable - Patrick Lencioni
  • The Culture Map - Erin Meyer

Posted on 17.11.2021

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