How Good Leaders Build Trust in Times of Uncertainty
— October 13th, 2021
In today’s uncertain world, there’s no greater asset than trust.
It is easily lost and increasingly difficult to build which poses a great challenge to our businesses, our communities, and our futures.
According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in CEOs is at an all-time low, with 56% of people surveyed suspecting business leaders may be ‘purposely trying to mislead’.
The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new era for the virtual workforce that’s focused on building trust and connectivity. So, how do good leaders build trust during times of uncertainty?
Leadership is a privilege
Building trust starts with recognizing that leadership is a privilege and not a right and it comes with huge responsibility.
The most sustainable forms of trust go beyond the spin and are held in the value sets and behaviors, not only of leaders but in the people they lead.
In a time when there is a lot of information and misinformation coming from different sources, people need any clarity we can provide when discussing the current state and next possible steps.
Part of the privilege of leadership is to become a leader that is worth following, but how do we do this? Gallup’s leadership report found that frank, honest conversations help reinforce trust between leaders and followers in times of change and it is for an obvious reason - they don’t want to be left in the dark.
In the virtual world, vulnerability has become business as usual with the lines between our professional and personal lives more blurred than ever. Many of us are taking meetings in our living rooms whilst also juggling childcare responsibilities making authenticity automatic.
Even in bad times, good leaders acknowledge and embrace the situation rather than shy away from it. Covid has shown us that you have to show people that even though you don’t necessarily have all the answers, you’re willing to forge on and have a go.
For organizations investing in building trusted relationships in this way, it can be a market differentiator. When the pandemic first hit last year, the Aurecon leadership team was acutely aware of what people were going through because we shared our experiences openly.
Getting first-hand experiences of how people were feeling gave us an insight into how critical it was to address everyone’s worries first before anything else. People can’t move if they’re frozen in fear.
In standing with our people, we acknowledged and embraced the uncertainty together, and while we didn’t have all the answers at the time, we tried to navigate all this ‘new normal’ together. It is what guided us on where and how we needed to steer the ship.
A team sport
In this complex world, leadership is no longer about the individual. Gone are the hierarchical days of leadership because you can’t lead a team if you’re not a team player.
The value in collective leadership is that you have a whole group of people going in the same direction, living the same values it creates and demonstrating consistency, this builds trust.
Ensuring that the leadership team is visible and communicating openly means that everyone is in the loop about critical updates in the business.
By bringing our people along on the journey, they were able to help us shape our response to the crisis, and in the end, people were able to adapt better and felt more certain about the future.
Cultivating new skills
Our world has changed, and our leadership must change with it. COVID-19 showed us that leaders must continually cultivate new skills, no matter what level they are in an organization.
The way we communicate, for example, needs to change as we continue to work remotely. Leaders need to translate everything into digital. There’s a big difference between talking to people through a screen and being with them in a room.
We have to profoundly understand the things we communicate, what it means for us, for our people, the whole business, and our communities.
Providing a vision, simplifying systems, and being part of exciting projects has always been central to my leadership at Aurecon. These days finding ways to be a positive force for the future whilst recognizing our people and witnessing their courage and drive inspires me.
Trust ultimately, relies on a leader’s character. Showing who we are every day, why we are here, and what we stand for is the best place to start.