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Getting back to work (Part 1): building trust in uncertain times

As leaders collectively set their intentions towards a successful 2022, they do so in an environment of continued worry, concern and overall uncertainty.

Critical to success in such times is clarity on their team’s psychological safety: which is the delicate balance of fear with employee trust, voice and empowerment.

As employees (who will already be filled with anxiety) head back to the office, leaders and managers will need to understand how to create psychologically safe environments that promote a clear sense of trust.

This will include the ability to feel safe speaking openly and allowing employees to feel empowered to make decisions and independently get their work done.

While it is was of key importance before the Covid-19 pandemic, psychological safety has been elevated into one of the most defining issues in the workplace.

The Bermuda Clarity Institute with our partner, the Deutser Clarity Institute, has done extensive research on psychological safety over the past 20 years.

In this three-part series on psychological safety, we will present 31 actionable tips and tricks to create psychological safety in your organisation to build trust with leaders, managers and your company.

Here are our top 10 tips on how leaders can build trust:

1, Accept the fundamentals. Listening is one of the most important leadership attributes. Trust your leadership sixth sense — you will feel when people are feeling safe or fearful. Work on focusing on the art of listening instead of the art of reacting.

2, Communicate. Rinse. Repeat. Communication is key to success in connecting with others and helping you to overcome challenge and the next crisis ahead. Be real with your words and emotions. Don’t be scripted. Actively work to connect. Create a weekly engagement plan with a theme for the week. Think about how many ways you can influence understanding and action around it. Is it e-mail, phone, videos or other tools?

3, Talk to your friend. You are the leader, but you don’t have to talk in corporate-speak or talk down to people. Imagine you are talking to a friend with every communication. Try to write a communication with the salutation “Dear Mom.” After finalising, change Mom to “Dear Employees” to see how tone changes. Find ways to humanise your messages even more.

4, Don’t hide bad news. Trust your people, who overwhelmingly want to do good. Respect them by not hiding difficult information. Identify a potentially difficult situation and think about how you would communicate the news. Then create a mini timeline with high-level messaging to manage bad news earlier and in stages. What changes?

5, Culture matters more today. Culture is defined in times of challenge and cemented for good and bad. This is the time to rethink values and define them with clarity. Be purposeful and reorient your leadership and employees around your purpose and recommit to the fact that culture has a direct link to performance. Review your values. Do they still apply to where the company is going in the near and long-term future?

6, Eliminate excess policies. Make the workplace easy to understand. Make it more about reinforcing what is right. Take time to eliminate redundant or punitive policies. Identify at least one policy you are willing to remove. Let your team know and why.

7, Double up on leadership training. This is the time to invest in people. Give them the gift that will last through this job and trust it will pay off with work dividends and a more trusting employee. Identify three people in your organisation that you want to recognise. Talk to them about wanting to help them with training. Create a plan together. Training can start with a few books or articles and discussions.

8, Health assessments are not just for people. Your company needs a health check-up. Understanding the whole of the organisation as people re-enter the workforce is fundamental for alignment at every level. Take time to listen. Try a complimentary organisational health assessment or The Clarity Performance IndexTM — both available through BCI.

9, Tether to the future. We are disconnected from so many aspects of life. Working remotely has disconnected our normal flow and relationships at work. As people return, it is vital to tether them to your belief in what is possible for the future. Review your company vision. Is it still right for the environment today? Reiterate the shared vision or create a statement of where the organisation is headed. Define your North Star.

10, Positivity is the glue that binds. Chaos. Transition. Challenge. These are the realities of our times but not necessarily the reality of our outcomes. Positivity is central in connecting you to others and your desired state. Lead positively with “Happy You Year” Exercise (complimentary download at www.clarity.bm) by setting your daily trajectory, meditating for eight minutes, picking one daily leadership competency, identifying one gratitude for you, and measuring your personal positivity quotient.

In this ever-changing environment, there is no “right” answer but there are many right things to consider in order to build a work environment formed on trust. Be on the lookout for future articles diving into more tips on creating a psychologically safe workplace.

If you would like our full guide “Getting Back to Work: Building an Organization of Trust and Empowerment,” please visit our website at bermudaclarityinstitute.com/downloads/

Moment of Clarity: Stuart Lacey (File photograph)

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Published January 24, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated February 18, 2022 at 2:00 pm)

Getting back to work (Part 1): building trust in uncertain times

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