leaders

How leaders create team effectiveness during doubt and anxiety

Mar 2, 2022
  • Article by Marie-Claire Ross

With all of the instability in the world right now, leaders are under more pressure than ever to appropriately lead and manage their teams.

When I talk to architectural teams, there are two camps. The first is the happy-go-lucky one that hasn’t really experienced the effect of lockdowns. Teams have been working together throughout the pandemic making use of the proviso of doing essential work enabling people to work face-to-face. Their biggest issue is the burnout and stress from juggling a lot of projects. Then, there are the other teams that have isolated and have been working separately under pressure. They’re accruing the productivity benefits of working from home, but suffering the emotional toll of feeling disconnected and isolated.

We are now at an interesting juncture where you may find your team members are experiencing a range of emotions. The result is they feel stuck and unsure of what to do next, or they work on the wrong things.

So how do we improve team productivity in these turbulent times?

Constant change and hybrid work environments aren’t the issue. They are here to stay. The problem is that it is time to lead differently. I still find that leaders are unintentionally using outdated leadership skills that were created when we worked in a stable environment – a time when technical skills mattered.

And the secret sauce is trust.

As human beings, we all want to be trusted. Our deepest need is to be visible, to feel heard and that we belong. We want people to trust us to do a good job, to value what we do and involve us in their future plans.

It doesn’t matter where you work or how you work. If you have trust as the foundation for your team environment, you can put your team anywhere and under enormous pressure, and they will thrive. Adapting to uncontrollable situations, making fast decisions, continually improving and finding new market opportunities.

So how do you create a trusting team culture? Let’s peek inside our brain first.

Our brains are regularly scanning the environment subconsciously asking, ‘is it safe to be myself?’, ‘do I belong here?’ and ‘what’s my future with these people?’

Today, it’s more important than ever that leaders know how to communicate both verbally and non-verbally to the part of the brain that manages trust – the limbic system that doesn’t understand language, but feelings.

Our brains are designed to need lots of signalling. This requires learning techniques that signal to people that ‘together we can do this’.

Introducing the Integrated Trust Building System

The Integrated Trust Building System helps leaders to focus on the three most important practices to emotionally engage employees that pull people into the achievement zone. These are:

  • fostering safety
  • creating connection, and
  • stepping into a meaningful future.

The trick here is to always touch on these three factors in your dealings with others. This helps people breathe more easily knowing they are supported and valued – making it much easier to face difficult challenges.

Working the system

There are three corresponding interactions where you communicate these three practices. These are:

  • meetings/one-on-ones
  • visibility, and
  • accountability.

The good news is that these three practices don’t take much time to deliver, they just take practice and courage. And when you get them right, they provide a powerful shortcut to navigating the complexity of human behaviours and beliefs.

Today, leaders need to reassure people that their emotional needs are being met through signalling that the organisation cares about people, not simply profit. And that they care about their direct reports – their career pathways, mental health and job satisfaction.

If you are a leader, ask yourself weekly:

  • What can I do to increase safety in my team?
  • How can I ensure people feel connected to one another?
  • How can I best communicate the future for each individual in my team?

The key is to start with small steps – trust is a process, not a single event – and these behaviours need to become part of who you are, not what you do when others are watching.

Creating a healthy and supportive workplace where employees don’t dread work is one of the most important tasks of leaders today. And it is more than just delivering mental health and well-being programs. It also requires leaders who know how to create a thriving and enjoyable team culture. Get it right and you will improve team engagement and credibility, and retain good talent.

This is an excerpt from a longer article that will appear in AR170. If you would like to read the full latest magazine, click here to receive a complimentary copy of our first digital issue.

Marie-Claire Ross is a speaker, trainer and coach at Trustologie, who helps leaders and organisations improve trust in teams. She is also the author of the new book Trusted To Thrive: How Leaders Create Connected and Accountable Teams (www.marie-claireross.com/trusted-to-thrive).

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