Re-build trust in the workplace, don’t just make it ‘coronavirus safe’​

As companies are starting to re-introduce people back into their workplaces there will be a range of considerations around whether any PPE is needed, how social distancing will work and what percentage of the workforce should actually be invited back. These are all be very practical considerations and will take some planning. But are these the only challenges organisations and leaders will face over the coming weeks and months?

In a recent round-table discussion we held with some of our clients the topic came around to this type of planning, and it was at that point that someone dropped the following question into the conversation. “But do they want to come back? That’s the challenge!” Food for thought and a question I would like to explore here.

As we enter July it’s worth recognising that there will be some people who have spent more time in 2020 working from home than they have working ‘in the office’ (or your equivalent!). Back in March pretty much everyone was working through the implications of moving their place of work to a home office, spare bedroom or dining room table. This was a time of uncertainty for many people – how would this work, how would they balance getting work done with home schooling, how would they stay in touch with colleagues? And then there were also the people being retained under the furlough scheme (nearly 9 million recorded at the start of June) who were looking at being at home with the uncertainty of when they may be asked to return to work.

Nearly four months on, the ‘how will it work’ has become a thing of the past as it has worked. People have found their working space, they’ve found a way to balance the conflicts of their work and home schooling and they now have well established routines. Working from home, or being furloughed, has been normalised.

And now these people are starting to be asked to break these established routines for something that will resemble their old routines. What thoughts and feelings might this trigger and how, as leaders, might we need to engage people at this time of major change – the second one people will have faced this year.

The thinking that people have leads to them taking certain actions, which in turn will give results (This is one of the core principles that we use with our clients at Thinking Focus: Thinking = Actions = Results). We also know that much of our thinking is done by the subconscious, even though we are more aware of the conscious thoughts that we have, and there are two systems at work: one fast emotional thought process, and a slower, rational thought process. These fast emotionally driven thoughts can be reactive, and lead to our thinking being incredibly unhelpful, trapping in negative world views that can hold us back. Right now, a variety of these thoughts will be being triggered by talk of returning to the workplace.

The posing of the “But do they want to come back?” question led the discussion at the round-table to exploring the different elements of this, noting that there are a number of key considerations for leaders, coming out of the current situation.

The concerns that people may be having will be wide ranging. ‘C’ – who works for a major sports brand – commented “We recently did a survey of everyone to ask, ‘What are your concerns about coming back to work?’ And it was around childcare. That was the big one. And it was around public transport, because we’ve got quite a lot of people who live in city centre coming into where we are. And then obviously shielding issues were mentioned.” And while these were expected, one curveball also came from this survey. ‘C’ mentioned “the one thing that just popped up, was ‘but I have been able to work flexibly. Can I carry on? Do I need to come into the office?’ and it’s come up so many times on all the different responses.”

So aside from some concerns that many leaders have probably thought about, there may be this underlying ‘do I need to go back to the office?’ narrative coming through for people. One of the thoughts put forward by one of our team was “I wonder if the supermarket syndrome comes into play here, you know, you join a queue and only a few people are allowed in. And people seem to conform to all of that social distancing, and then as soon as you’re in the supermarket, it all goes out the window because everybody’s leaning across you. I wonder if that is the concern for some people about coming into the office – will other people respect the distancing?”

There are some known cognitive biases that impact the way we judge our own and others capabilities. They may be playing out here, with some people overestimating their own ability to stick to rules, while at the same time underestimating the ability of others to do the same (Dunning-Kruger effect).

‘A’ from a global Medical technology company mentioned this very thing had come up in a conversation with a colleague. “This manager was one of the ones that tells you this feels uncomfortable. And when she finally could kind of put it into words, what she said was that she knows she’s been seeing more people, but she knows them really well. So she knows that they’ve been following the government guidelines and she knows that they are regularly washing their hands and they won’t invade her space, but she doesn’t feel it’s safe coming back into an office where she doesn’t know those people as well, she doesn’t know what their home environment is like, she doesn’t know who they’re exposed to. So there’s that lack of trust and nervousness, what if somebody walks into your two metres of space and you’re like, what are you doing?”

And of course, if this lack of social distancing happens, will people turn around to a colleague and ask them to ‘back off’ and stay further away?

As ‘C’ from an international print and application company simply put it “And people are not robots, they won’t necessarily follow all rules all the time. And, that’s just not intentional.” Which in the case of their organisation has led them to form the view that they can’t see more than 25% of the workforce being asked to come back to the workplace, to start with.

However, as ‘G’ from a major healthcare service provider put it “I do think it will be safer than public environments like supermarkets or wherever. We’ve got all the tape on the floor, the different measurements (have been made) and we’ve actually invoked a one way system in the building as well.”

So, does this highlight a dual role for leaders at this time? The first being the practical side of getting people back in to the workplace and the second being building the trust for those that are being asked back in, through reducing numbers, through putting practical measures in place and through reassuring people that all that can be done has been? I think so, while recognising that for some leaders the practical side may be easier than ensuring people are reassured.

A more general question to consider is will there be people who are scared of coming back, people who are anxious about this? From our discussions the general feeling was that yes, there will be people who feel this way but the hope is that this will be a transient feeling, as people start to get back to the workplace they will see things are in place, they will see their colleagues working to these new ways and they will, in turn, feel more confident. This fear may well come from the fact that working from home, or being furloughed, has been the ‘new norm’ for many people and people are in safe ‘bubble’ that they feel in control of. Going back to the workplace changes this, with a whole set on unknowns about the workplace and colleagues.

As leaders, it is important that we take time to rebuild the trust that used to exist for the workspace. While it might sound strange to talk about trust in the office being reduced by working from home, the last few months have changed our relationship with a lot of spaces we used to frequent, and we have be subjected to a lot of messaging that has told us to stay away from some places where we used to spend a lot of time. For some people trust will take some time to return.

The office used to be a safe place. Firstly, it was probably a clean space that we did not associate as being a risk to personal health. It was a place where we accepted that we had to cohabit with other people, sharing facilities, working with different groups and using different spaces. We also knew how it worked, the social rules governing the workplace are so clearly defined that most of us have never even had to think about them. All of this has changed. The workplace is now dangerous, it may cause us to interact with people who might make us ill. While four months ago someone sitting at your desk might have felt inconvenient, it wasn’t really a problem. Now the desk may need to be cleaned. For most people, the office has become a foreign place, we no longer know how it works.

To rebuild trust we need to focus on the logic and rules (cognitive trust) and the interaction between people and the feelings that this may create (affective trust). The rational part of this will be easy for most leaders, detailing the new rules, signs on the floor, one-way systems and limits to the numbers of people in at any time.

The affective trust required is more complex. To rebuild this we need our teams to know that we understand their anxiety in coming back, creating psychological safety around the first visit back (such as a trial return). Leaders need to be responsive to the inevitable incidents that will occur, especially around social distancing measures. If we can role model the new behaviours and quickly deal with rule breakers, we can help our teams normalise the new working rules and quickly restore trust in the office.

Have we accidentally created two tribes?

Teams have been broken, split between furloughed and working, home-based or office-based.  Teams that were once aligned against a common purpose are now divided.  What does this mean for managing teams going forward?  How can leaders bring teams back together?

Rich, Rob, Ricky and Paul (and Paul’s dog) discuss the implications and unintentional side effects of some of the difficult yet necessary decisions that have had to be made.   How do we get back to one team and one vision?

This podcast was recorded while we are in the middle of lockdown. Like most people, we are working from home (with kids and dogs), making do and still looking to answer the questions that are getting in the way.

What is all this uncertainty doing to my team?

We are dealing with high levels of uncertainty right now, possibly the most uncertainty that most of us have or will ever experience. What impact is that having on our lives, and particularly our working lives?

In this podcast, Richard talks to Paul about how we react to uncertainty, and some of the things we can do to help us work through these times of rapid change, both for ourselves and the people that we manage or lead.

This podcast was recorded while we are in the middle of lockdown. Like most people, we are working from home, making do and still looking to answer the questions that are getting in the way.

Working from home is, for some, a great adventure, for others an absolute hell. Either way it looks like it is going to be our future.

Why do we all respond so differently?

There has been a lot of material over the last few months providing tips on working from home, you have probably already read some of them.  Mostly the advice is practical, sensible, and heavily grounded in the tricks and techniques that many people who are already home workers are well versed in, but it misses the point.  A lot of the people currently having to work from home are not the kind of people who would typically work from home.  For some of us this ‘best practice’ might be useful and a healthy approach, but the assumption that there is a right way of doing things can be the very thing that is causing stress.  I have worked from home on and off for most of my working career.  I don’t do half the things that are being advised, they are just not me.  However, I am no longer the only home worker in my house, and this has allowed me to see the areas where the right answer for each of us is very different.

To maintain the best mental health when working from home, the golden rule is ‘do what works for you’.  If the suggestions help, then go for it, if they don’t, feel free to let them go.  The thing is, we are all different and we all think, work and react differently.  Trying to force your working style into the routine that someone else believes in the correct one will at best be hard work, but it could easily be chipping away at your resilience, mood and overall mental wellbeing.  Regardless of how you work, you will always be more productive by being you than spending energy conforming to so-called ‘best practice’. 

This is also something that we need to consider as managers.  Recognising that the way we want to work will not be the best way for some of our team, so we need to decide if we are interested in getting the best out of people, or making them conform.  This will mean letting go of some of the beliefs that you may hold about work.  For instance, does it matter if a member of your team starts early in the morning, but takes an extended lunch break just to get out of the house for a while?  There are two questions I find myself asking; “is the work getting done?” and “are the team OK?”.  The priority as a manager is to find a balance between these two, which means that if getting the work done requires more flexibility in working style to maintain the team wellbeing, then that is something I need to promote and support.

One of the ways that psychologists think about how we are different is by using the model known as the big five personality traits.  It offers an interesting way to think about the range of individual differences, and how we will each be impacted differently as we settle in to working from home. These are explored below.

Openness to experience – Some of us are very open to new things and will see working from home as a bit of an adventure.  If you are working with someone with a high in openness to experience you can expect them to be finding new ways that you can work together; this might come across as a stream of websites,  software or tools that they want to try with the team.  In moderation this can be really useful as they will find solutions to the challenges of working in a different way.  However, you may need to slow them down, as those who are much lower on the openness scale will find the volume of change created by home-working challenging enough without these additional new ideas.

Conscientiousness – Some people like the world to be formalised and ordered, others like the world to be flexible and spontaneous.  For those who are high in conscientiousness, the moving of deadlines and changes in targets that might be necessary to facilitate home working will need to be carefully communicated, and if possible locked down quickly, while those low in conscientiousness will look to keep things more open, creating as much flexibility as possible, just in case things change even more.  The key will be to find a balance between creating a new routine, yet not locking things down so tightly that your team cannot respond as the world changes around us.  One of the classic bits of advice often given to home workers is always dress smartly for work.  If you are high in conscientiousness you might find this really helpful, formalising the work part of the day, if you are low (like me) then remember nobody needs to know you are wearing shorts on a video conference – although do wear something, just in case you have to stand up to fetch something!

Extraversion – So, you don’t need to study psychology to work out that some people in the team are loud and outgoing while others are much more quiet and reserved.  The extraversion scale is looking at this difference in how we relate to the world, with extraverts looking to the outside world for their energy, while introverts look inside themself to recharge.  Homeworking can be really draining for extraverts, who are not getting the ‘fix’ of people to ‘top-up’ the batteries.  Even video calls are going to be like a slow charger compared to what they are used to.  This can cause the extraverts to become drained very quickly when working on challenging things as they cannot recharge quickly.  Introverts need time and space to recharge.  It is not that they don’t like spending time with people, just the time needs to be more intimate, and they prefer group sizes to be smaller.  While homeworking might suit introverts as they are being left alone to get on with their work, there is a risk here too.  Some introverts will so enjoy the working style that they withdraw too far from the group, not really joining in with group calls, or working on other things when the conversation seems like banter.  They can easily find themselves left behind by the rest of the team as the world rapidly changes. 

Agreeableness – Agreeableness is a measure of your preference for social harmony, people who are high in agreeableness like it when people are getting along, whereas those who are low on this scale will place their own self-interest over that of the group.  Having to communicate by video call makes it much harder than usual to have difficult conversations, without them becoming arguments.  If you are highly agreeable, this may be causing you to maintain social cohesion at your own expense, which may generate some resentfulness and frustration.  Low agreeableness might cause you not to see where you need to concede to allow the group to move forward, damaging working relationships unnecessarily.  Watch out for situations where you push forward too quickly in the desire to get things done, when others just needed a little more time to get their heads around it.

Neuroticism – Some people are more emotionally stable than others.  While everyone will react emotionally to things that happen, some of us process these events much more negatively, and this is what the neuroticism personality measure is looking at.  People who are high in neuroticism may find that they are unsettled at the moment, worrying about the future, their security or their family.  They may take work things more personally than they used to, and the lack of interaction with the team may mean that it takes a lot longer for misunderstandings to get resolved.  This may also play out in other areas of their life, so lockdown frustrations at home may spill over into work, and work into home, particularly as the boundaries between these is so blurred.  People who are low in neuroticism are probably less concerned about what is happening, which may also mean they are less stressed, which is good.  That said, while worrying all the time is a bad thing, small amounts of anxiety can be a great warning signal that we need to focus on an upcoming threat, which means that low neuroticism may cause people to be complacent during times of rapid change, like now.

Of course, these personality traits are not simple binary choices, they are spectrums, and very few of us sit at either end of the spectrum, most are somewhere in the middle.  The key is recognising that we are all slightly different, and therefore need to find a balance that works for us in new situations (such as remote working).   If you are in the position that many of us right now find ourselves in, finding it difficult to separate out work and home life as the boundaries blur into one, then think about your personality and what you need to do to make it work for you.  This might be breaking up your schedule from the usual work 9-5, or creating better work and home boundaries, such as designating a space for work, or dressing for work and then getting changed at the end of the day.  Mostly though, accept that right now things are different, and you probably won’t get it entirely right all of the time. Be kind to yourself, and those that you work with, as we all try to find a balance for this new way of working. It would also be nice if our acceptance of each other’s different styles became part of the new normal.


Photo by Dillon Shook on Unsplash

Where should a leader focus their attention?

This podcast explores the challenges that leaders face of where to focus their attention. In a crisis situation, leadership time is required to make fundamental day to day decisions, that generally would be taken elsewhere. Finding a balance between getting stuck in and keeping the wider view is one all leaders and managers face.

Rob and Rich suggest that time needs be split between Growing, Running and Protecting the business, and how the need to protect (in the current COVID Crisis) and run (with key staff on furlough) may cause leaders to lose focus on moving their business forward.

This podcast was recorded while we are in the middle of lockdown. Like most people, we are working from home, making do and still looking to answer the questions that are getting in the way.

How to Combat Loneliness when Working Remotely

For all its perceived advantages, like, for example, not having to commute and working when you want to, remote working also has its challenges. Loneliness is a primary risk and will have a very real impact for the thousands of UK workers who now suddenly find that remote working is going to have to be the ‘new normal’ for an unspecified amount of time due to the spread of the coronavirus.

At Thinking Focus, we have worked remotely for years, so it is so much our ‘normal’ that we would probably initially struggle to adjust to working in a central place of work and fit into a structure of regulated office time, physical meetings, commuting to and from work and working shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues. We’ve learned a few things over the years and would like to share some of that with you.

A real focus for your own well-being – let alone remaining effective when you have to work remotely – is making sure that you never feel isolated or alone. Here’s how to stay connected as a remote worker, including as an employee and as a person, during any time of uncertainty.

Set up regular remote meetings

Getting regular, consistent feedback is an important part of productive remote working. If you’re the manager of a remote worker, or a remote worker yourself, consider implementing some of these strategies for staying in touch:

  1. A daily check-in: It’s always good to make sure that everyone’s on the same page and that everyone knows which daily tasks to prioritise.
    A weekly team meeting: When you’re working remotely team, it is important to hear about what other people are working on—even if it’s outside of the scope of your focus. It helps to keep you connected.
  2. Video is more personal than a conference call—and can help bond a team together, setting the groundwork for collaboration (even at a distance). After all, much of communication is non-verbal. faces need to be seen & expressions interpreted.
  3. Regular person-to-person meetings: Regular video calls with other remote teammates is important. Plan days to work together. You can use the time to share business updates, individual successes and failures, even social, non-work related chat for a time. The point is to feel more connected to each other.


Designate an in-office contact for remote workers

Now that you are practically away from your normal place of work, it can be easy to feel out of the loop—or worse, like your concerns or questions aren’t being addressed. One way to combat this issue is to designate an in-office contact. This person can be a manager, or they can be on the same level as the rest of the team. Part of their responsibility would be to make sure that team conference calls run smoothly by letting remote workers have equal air-time and making sure that issues are heard. In some cases, you’ll need a manager or an HR professional to help set up this designated role.

Find a remote working buddy

Friends and colleagues will be immensely important right now. People with a work buddy typically feel more engaged with their work than those without one. Try to find someone that you can regularly check-in with who can help keep you motivated when working alone. Don’t wait until you feel loneliness taking hold.

Use a remote working office platform

Communication is clearly the key to successful remote working. Find an effective office platform where team workflow can be monitored and important documents shared. This will provide a transparent way for everyone to monitor each other’s progress, as well as their own.

Communicate about more than your remote work

Keep in touch with your co-workers about more than just your daily tasks. If you can, try to stay up to date with people’s birthdays and what’s going on in their lives. Don’t be afraid to talk to other people about things that aren’t specifically about work – relationship building and maintenance is critical right now.

Set up a helpful remote work routine

Feeling more connected is not all to do with the office. Remember to keep connected to the rest of the world. Don’t get caught up in being or feeling isolated.

The workday should have room for enjoyment. Whether that means creating a light-hearted connection channel with friends online or simply giving a friend or family member a phone call when you complete a difficult task, don’t hesitate to take breaks and reward yourself for putting in the time and doing good work. Having fun is also part of the productive rhythm of a workday.

Stand up and walk around whilst on the phone. Remember to stop and have a meal – physically set the time aside. Build in time for exercise and fresh air.

Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

Tracking performance from home

Think about how you track your team’s performance in the office: if everyone’s hard at work at their desks from nine to five, and you can see (almost feel) that everything’s getting done, then that’s a success, right?

If you’ve already started working from home in the last couple of weeks, I’m sure it’s become clear that keeping track of your team like that is impossible when working remotely. The issue is that most managers are unconsciously accustomed to tracking their teams’ inputs. That is, so long as they can see time and effort being put into the job, meetings are happening and people are staying behind to finish up things, then they’re not too concerned with what comes out the other end.  

That might feel a little shocking, but ask yourself, when was the last time you really checked that the work you and your team were doing was really the greatest contribution you could make?

In the world of remote working, most of the methods you had of tracking inputs have gone. As a manager, you’re isolated from your staff and can’t tell if they’re really at their desks during regular office hours, or if they’re off having a nap, or catching up on Netflix.

Here’s what you need to realise: that doesn’t matter!

It’s time to reassess your measures of success, so you focus on the quality of what is being achieved (the outputs), not the way the work is done (the inputs). That way you won’t find yourself doubting your team unnecessarily. Either the work is being done, or it isn’t. There are some roles that still require specific tasks in a certain order. However these days most things can be achieved in a multitude of different ways, and your way, even if it is the best for you, may not be the best for everyone else (especially now that most of are working in unfamiliar ways and places)

Instead of hounding your employees several times a day to make sure everyone’s at their computer, take stock of the work that’s being produced. Is everything being completed on schedule, and to the same quality as you’d expect in the office (or near enough, as people need time to adapt to remote working)? Are your clients or key stakeholders happy with how everything is being handled? Are they getting what they need, when they need it?

If yes, then your team is still working well, despite being at home. They don’t always need to be at their desks at the same times as they would in the office, because we all adapt to remote work in different ways, best suited to our own personal situations. What matters is that their performance hasn’t dipped. The more control they feel about how they can organise their time, and make it work with the other pressures in their life, the more focused, engaged and resilient they will be.

When you find yourself saying no to these questions, that’s when you go back and look at the inputs. Make sure that there is a clear understanding of what is expected, and that they have the belief that this is still possible now that their working conditions have changed.  You may need to spend some time rebuilding clarity and belief, as the current situation and changes in how we work can easily create wobbles.  I

It is worth remembering though, that in the short term at least, it is likely that the change to remote working might be the only factor causing the dip, which can only be resolved through support (probably a mix of psychological, managerial and technological!) and allowing employees the time to adjust.

The key to tracking performance remotely is to redefine what ‘success’ means to you and your team. Previously, unconsciously, you might have related it to inputs and how long your people spend on tasks. Be wary of this, as it can lead to (very ineffectual) presenteeism, where the only focus for your team is putting enough face time in with you to appear busy.

Define success in terms of output-driven KPIs, that connect the work your team do with your team’s purpose. The purpose of a team or business unit is not measured in numbers of meetings,  reports delivered on time, or how many calls made; these are just inputs designed to help you hit your goal. 

By defining measures around what you want to achieve and not how you think it needs to be done, you can allow the team to find their own way. So, no matter when, where, or how your team chooses to work, you can be confident that they’ll perform as well outside the office as in it.

How do I know my team aren’t watching Netflix?

If you’re a manager whose team just started working remotely recently, at one point or another you’re bound to wonder to yourself: “My team could all just be bingeing Netflix right now, and I’d have no idea!”.  This is natural: people understand the world through small triggers and tiny interactions, which disappear when you’re not together.

Of course, it’s going to feel strange at first to not be able to see your team putting in the work you expect from them. But, this is exactly why being able to trust your team, and be trusted by your team, is so key when managing remotely.

Unconsciously, a lot of managers are used to managing inputs: that is, they assess their team’s performance on how much time and effort they see is being put into producing the outputs (the results of the work). However, this style of management encourages forms of presenteeism, which really exhausts your staff without any added results to show for it.

What people should be managing (at all times really, but in particular when you’re not in position to measure the input), are the outputs. Put simply, if your team is still performing at the levels they were back in the office, then you can rest easy!  In fact, pat yourself on the back; us mere mortals will be slowing down a bit as we get used to this new way of working.

Reaching the stage where you are comfortable will take time and effort. This is where you need to rebuild trust with the team, accepting that they’re putting in the requisite work to reach the desired outcome, and ensuring that they know you’ll support them in achieving this.

The disappearance of interpersonal interactions with the team can leave managers feeling as if something is wrong. If it starts to feel like this, however, before you jump to any conclusions look for evidence to back up that feeling, or else you’ll be chasing up employees for nothing, and risking the trust that you have in the team relationships.

How do you get this evidence? By being communicative with your team. Have regular group meetings.  One way is to use the techniques developed by agile software developers, where at each regular review meeting each team member is asked to talk about

  1. What they’ve completed since the last meeting,
  2. What they’re going to do next,
  3. What help they might need in achieving that.

When you and your team are open like this, you can start to build an idea of what to expect from everyone and identify who’s struggling to adjust to remote working and needs some help.

Make sure to balance out the information you build up here with empathy – everyone’s going to adjust differently to working from home and the difference in individual workers’ openness can affect how much you trust them to work. Be conscious that some employees are going to stay out of your way, while others might over-communicate, which will imbalance how you perceive the work they’re putting in. This is a great time to check that perception against their outputs, to see if in fact, they are both producing equally great outputs.

Building trust while managing workers remotely, then, is a matter of building regular, structured communication, while remaining aware that different people work differently. If you can appreciate what’s coming out, instead of being hung up over what you know is going in, your team will be able to operate as efficiently as if they were still in office.

How do we create permission?

Managers are often frustrated by the lack of initiative taken by the people in their teams, while the team members are frustrated by the perception that they are not allowed to get on with what needs to be done.

Rob and Ricky explore how this common misunderstanding happens and look at how managers can create the sense of permission that their team members need to move forward.

This podcast is part of a short series on productivity, where we are exploring how you can Sell More, Save More and Do More, both personally and for your team.

Do They Trust Us?

Over the last 15 years I have worked with many senior leadership teams that are grappling with necessary organisational changes. These are often to take advantage of market or political trends, consumer demands, or to gain first mover advantage. Having said that, in one case a number of years ago, it was because the senior team had been given the feedback that the vast majority of people in the business were unhappy.

It was around this time that I became interested in the subject of trust.

It seemed to me that the leadership team mentioned above just wasn’t trusted anymore. Nobody believed what they said. Since then, I’ve seen it time and time again. A leadership team that thinks if they make the right noises for a while, people will get on board.

A lack of trust in all walks of life makes things very hard. Do you like being around people you don’t trust? Of course not. It brings a heightened sense of anxiety and caution to everything we do. If you are in this situation on a daily basis or in your personal relationships, it makes life unbearable.

My work over the last few years has led me to talk to teams about the need for them to rebuild trust or ensure they are trusted before embarking on changes, big or small, in their organisations. As ever around the subject of change, some people get it but many don’t. Many assume that just putting a good plan in place and some positional authority behind what they are saying means that people will just come on the journey with them.

So, as I explored the topic further, I began to develop something I call the ‘Trust Index’. Although rudimental, it was based on hours of talking to people in organisations. This simple research helped me identify three key factors that are needed to build trust:  

Competence, honesty and reliability.

I would then ask people in the organisation three simple questions based on these factors.

1. On a scale of 1-10 do you think the senior team are competent as leaders?

2. On a scale of 1-10 do you think they are honest with you?

3. On a scale of 1-10 do they do what they say they will do?

I’d then take all the responses and convert the answer to each of the questions into an overall percentage. As I said, very rudimental! However, it did give me a really good guide about how much people trusted their managers and team leaders.

I then went back to senior teams that were being given a score of 50% or less by their people, and suggested that they should think twice before making any changes of significance in their organisations, and instead wait until they had won back the trust of their people.

Recently, I came across something along the same lines as my research, although rather less basic! While on a long train journey, I was flicking through Ted Talks on my laptop when I saw one by Frances Frei, a professor of technology and operations management at the Harvard Business School.

She had been working at Uber following their recent problems, and had noticed three things that were broken in terms of trust within their culture.

Her talk is funny, informative and a great watch. She puts things so much better than I had been able to with my simple research. She talks about the following three things being needed to gain, maintain and rebuild trust:

Authenticity, logic and empathy.

Firstly, I was really pleased to see that my own limited research had given results that were similar to those Frances was talking about. However, as only one of us is a Harvard professor, I am more than happy to take and work on her three factors!

We’ve created this diagram below based on what Frances says in her Ted Talk:

So, why not ask yourself the following three questions, either in relation to the people you lead or the people who are leading in your company.

1. Authenticity – Are they seeing the real you?

2. Logic – Does it (whatever it is you are proposing) or do you make sense?

3. Empathy – Do people see that you care about them? If any of these three are missing, the whole thing goes very wobbly and certainly means you don’t have the basis on which to launch a programme of change.