Trust leadership through CARE

The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled me to reflect on my core values as a manager and leader. How do I get my team through this?

Patricia Basuel
4 min readMay 10, 2020

I watch with curiosity as the soupy undercurrent of emotions trickle or spill out of people, even me. These outbursts can erode or strengthen relationships. It’s hard enough to connect and align in person, but working together remotely makes it extra challenging.

Maintaining trust is crucial to getting through these uncertain times

Why? Because it encourages open communication, fosters an environment of psychological safety, and enables agility in overcoming obstacles. Trust allows teams to continue to operate effectively even though each person can be like a bag of emotions with cracks here and there. It makes it safe to take risks. I’d like to share the intentions that I keep in mind when interacting with work partners. These concepts are not new, but together they can help you earn, build, and maintain people’s trust as a leader.

Get on the same page with CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

First you must understand your own expectations of the outcomes for a project, task, or desired change in behavior. Only when that happens can you effectively and succinctly relay these expectations. Open, honest communication is key to setting expectations. Working for a company with a culture built around transparency and vulnerability certainly helps, which I’ve been lucky enough to experience at my current job, but as a leader you’re in the best possible position to positively transform a toxic work environment.

Assume positive intent through ACTIVE EMPATHY

Each person has their own goals, motivations, and styles. Knowing your team members on the surface and looking deeper with a sincere intent to work better together improves how effectively you can get your point across and how well they will receive your message. Observe how they react to what you do and how you phrase ideas and learn what works and what doesn’t. Putting yourself in another person’s shoes may not come naturally so be cognizant of this and work on it. Your team members are always context switching, juggling tasks, and dealing with personal issues in the background. Give them the benefit of the doubt and have patience. Emotions are reflected on your voice and intonations that people can pick up on. As a leader, coming from a place of understanding lets you set the right tone and message.

Care personally and challenge directly with RADICAL CANDOR

As a manager and leader, your job is to help others get better at their jobs. To do that, you must help people objectively understand their mistakes and learn from them. This can be an unpleasant task for many people, including me. I’ve had difficult conversations with direct reports where I’ve tried methods like the feedback sandwich that didn’t work well at all. Since then, I’ve taken the approach called Radical Candor by Kim Scott. I care a lot about the success of my team, especially my direct reports, because they help me succeed. I give kudos because they deserve it and tell them the truth about what they can do better. Again, delivery matters because it may come off as a calloused remark. That’s where the personal connection and trust comes in because they know you’re coming from a good place. Make your intentions clear: “I’m telling you this because I’ve been through it. You can learn from my mistakes.” Encourage them to challenge you and come up with solutions to address the problem. It’s not enough to point out an opportunity for improvement, they have to own it and take action.

Be present through ENGAGED LISTENING

Not enough leaders do this. I’ve had managers in the past who would talk 80% of the time on our one-on-ones but not about what I could be doing better or sharing strategies about the business. Instead, they would use one of my points to interrupt and recount a story about themselves. Shooting the breeze is totally fine, but when you don’t read the room they’ll remember that the next time. Show people respect by showing them that you value their time and attention. Listening can be difficult and I admit it’s something I’m still working on. Writing down notes helps. Instead of jumping in right away, jot down your thoughts quickly and address them later. (Side note: I just ordered a Rocketbook and I’m excited to try it out!)

In conclusion

It takes time to earn trust, but as a leader and manager you should first trust that your team can and will do what it takes to get things done. People can feel it when you trust them and when they do, they can and will surprise you. By setting clear expectations, being empathetic and honest, giving timely feedback, and actively listening, your team can thrive in your care.

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