In the last six weeks, the global working environment for team has been turned up side down in ways no one would have expected. Many teams that were used to being physically present for daily meetings haven’t been in the same room for a month and many teams are wondering if they will even continue to exist next month. And when people’s livelihood are at risk, the amount of stress on teams these days has probably never been greater in any of our lifetimes. The whiplash of change is in full emotional effect.
Given all this, your team needs to be lead and influenced towards health more now now than ever before, because at some point, all of this is going to come to an end. We will be able to leave our homes again, we will ‘get back to work’ once more (whatever that is going to look like going forward).
What am I doing to make sure my team is heathy when I do get them back?
However the question at the forefront of every leader’s mind should not be “when will I get my team back?” Instead we should be asking “What am I doing to make sure my team is heathy when I do get them back?”
Last week, we unpacked the value and influence born out of trust with your team. We discussed how trust, among other effects, is vital for producing and preserving health within a team. (For a deeper dive on why trust is so key to your teams, check out last week’s video here.)
The biggest opportunity to develop the “trust-ability” of a team is with intentional communication.
So let’s look at
3 ways leaders can increase trust through their communication...
1. Communicate with Consistency
The primary way to build trust with you team is to develop and maintain communication with them. We see this being played out at state and national levels even right now during this crisis. Political positions aside, the fact that a person can expect to hear from their governor or the president at a press conference that happens at the same time every day, is at its heart an effort to build and protect trust with the public.
But being consistent with communication is not merely a constant broadcast of situational or task related information. It goes far beyond that, especially in a crisis. I would suggest that if a leader is only communicating information of that sort, trust is still not being developed as effectively as it could/should be. In fact, the argument could be made when communication is only informative, the only area where the team will experience growth will be in their skepticism, as communication is viewed as propaganda in some sort of campaign.
Successful leaders will frequently communicate not only new situational information, but also other points of perspective for the team to consider.
An example is a leader I get to work with that has started emailing his team every morning throughout this crisis. Each email exchange focuses less on information and more on points of personal inspiration and stories of positive human interactions. The palatable effect of this daily touch point is that he has managed to keep his team’s camaraderie levels high and their communication overwhelmingly positive, despite the strain the crisis has put on them.
2.Communicate with Credibility and Clarity
The need for clarity is heightened during times of crisis. In uncertain times, there is already an abundance of ambiguous or missing information. Leaders have to resist the temptation to add to the nebulous. There is a tension of wanting to give answers to team questions without saying something that has to be walked back later. This often puts leaders in a place where they feel that all communication has to be non-committal in nature, leaving them room for pivoting at a later time.
Conversely, well-meaning leaders can err in the other direction. They become quick to give commitments and predictions which placate the team’s hopes but in reality lie beyond their ability to control or deliver. Inevitably, these leaders will have to go back to their team and communicate that they had previously misspoken. Having to do this will cost them a high amount of trust currency all because of a desire to be liked as a leader.
Leaders... have the ability to admit what they do not know and that of which they are still unsure.
Leaders who are understand the value of building trust through their communication understand the need to communicate with credibility and clarity. They take a posture that clearly differentiates between information they know currently and predictions they believe may come about later. In circumstances like the current one it is vital that, as information changes, the team hear it promptly from their leader as well. This sends a strong message that the leader can be trusted because they are keeping the team well informed, even as events unfold.
A final factor for a leader to communicate with competency and clarity is their ability to admit what they do not know and that of which they are still unsure. Leaders should resist the mindset that people only follow leaders who have all the answers and who are undeterred in a course of action. Sure, that bravado inspires confidence (again, only when it is well-founded), but a leader who is candid enough to acknowledge what they do not know or points of which they are still unsure also boosts the team’s confidence. In some cases, a leader’s transparency can be the catalyst to rally the team to new levels of effort and creativity.
3. Communication with Compassion
The finally factor for building and protecting trust within a team is making sure communication is laden with compassion. It is also important that the leader acknowledge and even discuss emotions that might be involved with each round of communication. Team members’ stress levels can be reduced as their leader gives a voice to the concerns that might be going through their heads and hearts, whether the leader personally shares or is able to mitigate those emotions or concerns or not.
One of the biggest challenges between team members and leadership, especially during extraordinary circumstances and/or crisis, is the impression that leadership is unaware or unconcerned by the impact to the team.
Leaders who are successful in this area have the ability to verbalize an understanding of how developments might affects individuals on the team, even beyond the team context. A trustworthy leader communicates with compassion— acknowledging the impact on a team member’s plans, their lifestyle, and especially to the team member’s family.
The lack of control over our circumstances can be the most frustrating factor in a crisis like the one we are currently facing. In spite of that, leaders should protect against the thinking that the health of their team culture cannot be preserved or even bettered during these uncertain times. I believe the opposite is true, and that by seeing the potential in the current landscape leaders can find new ways to invest in their team’s “trust-ability”. Leaders who understand the importance of communicating consistently, with credibility, clarity, and compassion will be pleasantly surprised by the level of team health once life opens up again.
Healthy teams are better equipped to adapt to a “new normal” and therefore better positioned for success right out of the gate, if not before.
So, during this time, which of these areas of team communication do you need to get be better at as a leader?
Leadership is all about helping people pursue and deepen a healthier culture within their team contexts. This has never been as difficult or important as it is in the current global challenge. Being a leader who is able to develop sharper tools throughout this crisis will find themselves and their team in a stronger position on the other side. And we can help!
To make sure your toolbox is well-stocked during the COVID-19 Crisis, Red Chair Leadership is offering a free 1 hour consultation and coaching session to new clients through May 15th
Schedule your free session today now!
At Red Chair Leaders we believe whole-heartily in a team based leadership model. For more information about how to inject more team based leadership into your organization, visit RedChairLeadership.com.