Opportunities amidst crisis: Build a more Trusting Team

By Kevin Smith

Leaders can strengthen their teams and develop higher performance and more trust during these times of crisis. The “rules” are different and generally looser now as we all try to adapt. By showing staff that they have the leader’s full support, you can foster necessary innovation and raise the level of trust that will last long past the turmoil.

Building Trust During Crisis

Building Trust During Crisis

It’s easy to get caught up in the adrenaline and momentum of “putting out fires” during a crisis, for everyone involved. It’s also easy for leaders to get tunnel vision in this mode of operation, focusing on the details of the operational. It is important during this time to occasionally step back and reflect on the important in the big picture of things and not just the urgent.

One area of opportunity is in the development of trust among your teams.

Covid-19 has caused all of the rules to change in a very short amount of time. We’re all learning. We’re all adapting. And certainly, your staff is being challenged in many ways, perhaps in ways that are bringing them together to rely on each other to a much higher degree. That’s a small amount of silver-lining that is of value, but let’s look beyond that as well.

This crisis environment is forcing credit unions to examine their products and services to find new ways to serve members, for new ways to help them out, to provide value. Necessity is truly the mother of invention here. Many of the old ways of thinking have been pushed out the door as you figure out what to do.

What’s this got to do with teams and trust?


Leaders – as your teams get creative and push innovation is ways that they haven’t before, consider these:

Tolerance for Mistakes – be as tolerant as possible of mistakes. Innovation under duress is unlikely to be flawless. Let your folks know that this is a time for learning and “failing forward.”

Freedom to make decisions/Latitude – make sure your folks understand that the goal is to accomplish the mission (rather than simply to do a job or to fulfill a list of duties). You probably have enough on your plate to deal with. Give your staff additional discretion about doing what needs to be done.

Allow for vulnerability – It’s hugely important to know if or where there are problem areas and things going awry. Do you know that your people are willing to talk about what’s not working without fear of retribution for being critical?  A front-line staff person makes themselves vulnerable in doing this. Supporting this from a leadership position will make sure that valuable information is free-flowing in a helpful way. Now is not the time for people to be afraid to report problems. Reward this communication. You will get the behavior that you reward.

Trust in a team, requires constant care and feeding. Following these steps will help you to promote trust amongst your staff. This in turn will raise performance. In ordinary times, this kind of psychological safely takes a long time to build. A crisis suspends many rules as we know, and allows for a quicker pivot point, a place to build your team and your culture quickly. Following the steps above will help you adapt to your current needs, and also serve the organization long into the future with stronger bonds between people.

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