How Leaders Can Earn Trust in the Wake of a Global Pandemic


Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Management pros

Thursday, November 19, 2020

One of the biggest consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for businesses and managers is a fresh need to show leadership and earn the trust of the workforce.

Article 4 Minutes
How Leaders Can Earn Trust in the Wake of a Global Pandemic

Business leaders in 2020 face a challenge unprecedented in modern times: leading their organizations and their workforces through an international health crisis.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt in countless ways, including how companies operate and how people do their jobs.

As well as addressing the fundamental priority of helping employees stay safe and ensuring staff can work without putting their health at risk, managers need to consider the importance of showing strong leadership and maintaining the trust of their workforce.

Effects of the pandemic

The effect of the COVID-19 crisis on people's mental health and general outlook on life has been undeniable.

A survey conducted in July 2020 by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization focusing on national health issues in the US, found that more than half (53%) of American adults felt their mental wellbeing had been negatively impacted by worry and stress over the coronavirus outbreak.

An even higher proportion (69%) of people in the UK have reported feeling somewhat or very worried about the impact the pandemic is having on their lives.

Encouragingly, research has also shown that most employees feel positive about their employer's response to this unique situation. The findings of a McKinsey survey of nearly 900 workers in the US revealed:

  • 80% of people felt leadership took proactive action to protect their health and safety
  • 78% thought their organization had responded to the crisis appropriately
  • 77% said they had the information they needed to plan and adjust

Amid all the challenges and difficulties created by COVID-19, one of the clearest silver linings for many employers is healthier, more trusting relationships between managers and employees.

If a stronger foundation of trust is one of the positives you're hoping to salvage from the pandemic, it's worth considering the steps you can take to make this a lasting reality.

Listen to your people

Your workforce will always be the most valuable source of information you have when it comes to gauging sentiment and evaluating relationships between employees and their managers.

Taking every opportunity to listen to workers is always a good idea, but it's particularly advisable during your most challenging times. It's at these moments that the views of the labor force are likely to be one of your most valuable and reliable indicators of the best route forward.

There are various ways to encourage and collect input from your workforce, such as holding regular one-on-one catch-ups (via videoconference if necessary). You can also stage 'town hall' meetings where whole teams get together and have free rein to share their views and talk about anything that's on their minds.

It's also important to provide feedback and to act on the things you've learned from these activities, so people can see that you're really listening and taking their views on board.

Make positive changes last

It's possible that the pandemic has led to changes within your organization that have had a positive impact on core processes like communication, collaboration and information sharing.

For example, in light of the increase in remote working, you might have adopted new technologies for people to stay in touch, or created new digital channels specifically for managers to answer questions or get feedback from their teams. If innovations like these have been well-received, make them a permanent fixture and take this opportunity to reinvent how the business approaches internal communications.

Show trust

If you want the people under your leadership to trust you, first you have to demonstrate that you have faith in them.

People who feel that their superiors trust and believe in them  are much more likely to show the same level of respect to their managers. Furthermore, they’ll have a greater willingness to work hard for the company and do their best to help it succeed and grow.

You can show your staff that you trust them by giving them a level of freedom and autonomy in how they go about their jobs. When someone feels confident enough to get on with a task without their manager holding their hand or constantly checking on their progress, the best thing you can do is leave them to it.

Prioritize integrity

Integrity is a vital management quality if you want to gain and earn the trust of employees. People need to see that you will stick to your word, and when you make promises or outline plans for the future of the company, you follow up on them.

It's also important to lead by example, and to ensure that you uphold the same standards, behaviors and general work ethic you expect to see from your staff.

During times of great stress and anxiety, managers are the ones who must step up and demonstrate the qualities that will help the business get through this period. By doing this, you'll lay the foundations for strong workplace relationships that will stand the test of time.

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