How Do You Connect To Your Team In A Virtual Setting?

How Do You Connect To Your Team In A Virtual Setting?

Remote work is here to stay, no doubts about that.

So now that leaders and teams no longer look at working in a virtual setting as a temporary solution for the COVID pandemic crisis but actually wish to continue working in such a work model, some questions arise.

How can we deal with the change of setting? And what has really changed in the way people interact with each other?

There are still many leaders making an extreme effort to keep the same face-to-face initiatives while working remotely, while others have felt an increased need to try something different.

Get To Know Your People and Be Present

Let me share with you an example of one of the leaders that I coach.

So, this leader was saying, “Catching up with people is taking a lot of my time. As a result, my days are quite packed, and I’m spending half an hour with each of them every week, plus the team meetings. I mean, we have really connected well over the pandemic crisis, but I need to focus on my own work. Any advice for that?”

And I asked her a simple question, “How did you do it before in a physical setting, face-to-face?” She stopped and went quiet for a minute. And then she said, “Oh, I didn’t actually do it.”

So if you have 12 employees on your team, spending 30 minutes with each of them weekly totals 6 hours per week of bonding.

After she realized the impact of this change, she said, “Wow, I’m spending six-hour quality time with my team, yet we’re getting more stuff done than ever before. And yes I’m busy, but I’m actually not working extra hours.”

This is a simple example of how many leaders have shifted the way they drive their teams in a remote setting. In an effort to not lose the connection with the people, leaders have started setting up catch-up calls and team meetings with the purpose of bonding and supporting each other.

Create an Interactive Online Environment

As a fully remote worker, I am pleased to find that the resistance to online settings has decreased.

In our organization, we used to run a lot of in-person workshops; however, after COVID they had to be moved to a remote setting. This meant a reassessment of how and why we ran these sessions: what was the expected learning outcome in such a different setting? We were known for doing very interactive workshops. The question was, how could we translate the same interactivity into the virtual world?

How many times have you heard, “Online training is not as interactive, good, and effective as face-to-face?”

Well, we didn’t accept that and committed ourselves to changing the mindset of our partners and clients.

I can recall the numerous below-average face-to-face training sessions that I attended in my career.

So, is it actually the case that face-to-face training is more effective, or is it purely the fact that we remember some of the great good in-person sessions we had?

Haven’t we all had very poor face-to-face ones as well? Is it the setting or the way it is facilitated?

In our particular case, our participants never said: “I wish this had been face-to-face, it would have been way more interactive.”

I’ve been blessed to have been part of virtual teams for some years now. These teams have bonded quite well and some of us are still in contact.

Many people claim that it does take energy and conscious effort to lead remote teams. It does, but the truth is that it takes the same amount of energy and effort as when you choose to connect in a physical setting. I learned a great deal about this myself during my Global Executive MBA at the IE Business School.

There are, of course, elements that I do enjoy doing in a face-to-face setting. For example, at the beginning of a client engagement, it is nice to meet the participants in person.

However, with the development of technology, it is possible that we are fine-tuning the new norm and that some of these first encounters become less needed and necessary?

Begin Each Meeting with an Ice-Breaker

We have our team weekly meetings at the Great Shift which take one hour. We call them a lobby meeting, like if you’re meeting someone in the lobby on the way to your office desk and have a quick chat to go.

Before we begin those meetings, we always ask everyone an icebreaker question where we talk about our days, talk about how we feel, or simply ask random questions to have a laugh and get to know the person behind the screen. Understand that they are a human too and connect with them. This can be the most random question, such as, “What’s your favorite movie?” or “What’s your go-to TV series when you’re down?” Just the other week the question was, “If you were to be a cake, which cake would you be?”

Little things go a long way, that for us is replacing the casual, the water cooler.

Set Opportunities for Regular Interactions

What do some of our partners do? I was recently speaking to a startup in Singapore that has developed a virtual setting meant to connect anyone in the team at any time. It is like an office where people can go “sit” and have a conversation. So, employees can access the virtual network anytime to engage with others, exchange ideas, have meetings, or simply chat.

There is also this other startup that randomly matches people in the whole organization for 10-minute catch-ups. It’s completely voluntary, but these are the things that can be implemented without much difficulty, and, in some way, partly replace the daily interactions we used to have in an office setting.

In our organization, we also use internal communication software, Slack. I’ve personally used this for many years now, in different teams and in different settings, including in some of the mentoring I do in startups and on different professional networks. It not only makes the communication flow more efficiently, but it’s also a great means to share non-company updates.

Make Work Fun

I’ve mentored a company in the US that had 10 different recreation Slack channels, and its employees found so much about each other through them. Just by looking at the channel, I couldn’t believe people would connect so easily.

We have also created different channels in our team’s Slack channel from funny photos on the #frozen-screens-on-zoom channel to #bookjunkies where we share our best readings, and the #mental_health channel where we check in with each other, share our struggles, and challenges and post what we did to pamper ourselves on our monthly mental health day, and even a #ladies_lounge (I have no idea what happens there).

While it’s up to all everyone in the team to contribute and come up with those channels, they are captained by our project manager, Helena Cada, who meticulously keeps an eye on the app and looks at ways to improve it.

Build Trust

Yet another question that arises when working remotely is how to adjust to working with team members you’ve never met in person.

Of course, it’s great when you have met your team before, but when not, how can you actually make it work?

It’s arguably the same concept. There are a lot of things you can do in a virtual setting to build a meaningful connection. So far, I have only had the chance to meet one of my team members in person due to the travel restriction induced by Covid-19; however, none of the other collaborators have met before and I still believe this is the best team I have ever worked with.

I always make a conscious effort to build a solid relationship with every team member we onboard by scheduling regular one-on-one meetings. It is also a common practice for everyone to support and be empathic with each other. In reality, I believe that creating empathy and psychological safety is the foundation of a great team and the ultimate ingredient to building trust, and I believe this holds true for everyone on our team. Even our interview process is designed for applicants to meet as many team members as possible during the interview process.

Set Clear Expectations on Communication

There are incredible tools to learn more about each of your team members.

Take the 16 Personalities Test, for example, which we normally use in our team to better understand each other, and understand how we can better integrate everyone’s different ways of working.

Another important thing we also do is a working agreement, where you discuss with your collaborators how they want to be communicated to and with what kind of medium they want to use. For example, I have never in a team meeting forced anyone to turn on their cameras and that’s not something we demand anyone to do, but people voluntarily put their cameras on. Although I must admit I prefer seeing people on camera, my belief is that people should have the freedom to turn the camera off at times if they feel so. I would estimate that cameras are on 80% of the meeting times, yet, it’s not a mandate. 

Let Adults be Adults

Everyone is treated the exact same way in our company, regardless of their level of experience. And everyone responds the exact same way and treats each other accordingly.

Ricardo Semler used to say that when you treat people like grown-ups, they actually act like grownups. And I’m a strong believer in that, that if we treat people like adults, they will act like responsible adults. So far, from my own experience, this is true.

In our team, everyone is accountable for the work they have committed to do and has full responsibility to perform their tasks and ask for help and input whenever needed. By recognizing everyone is human and that there is always room and space for improvement, we openly discuss our mistakes without feeling judged; we even regularly do it in our monthly retrospective sessions.

Every team member behaves like a responsible adult that is empowered and capable of making both wise and bold decisions. And because transparency is encouraged, every one of us feels comfortable communicating our real thoughts and ideas regarding any process we are required feedback from.

And all this is done remotely without strict supervision or any sort of tracking system.

The knowledge and insights shared here with you are based on hands-on practices that have been working with the GS team and the teams we coach, so we do hope they will resonate with you.

We understand that every organization is different and, therefore, has different needs. So, if you are looking for solutions on how to build more cohesive remote teams, feel free to reach out, we’re happy to support you.

Leadership is a journey, going rebel is the way

Leadership is a journey, going rebel is the way

This article is a part of my ‘Decision to Trust’ blog series.

“Leadership requires five ingredients–brains, energy, determination, trust, and ethics. The key challenges today are in terms of the last two–trust and ethics.”
Fred Hilmer

Have you ever misjudged someone based on the simple fact that you were having a bad day/week, that someone else previously failed you in a similar situation, or because you had a preconceived idea about that person?

It happens we are human, and even as leaders, we do make such mistakes.

Many times, we believe we are being rational and neutral but in fact, we are acting on emotion, prejudice, and fear.

Even when someone does make a mistake and you, as a leader, feel the need to discuss it, how do you do it? How do you handle the situation?

A practice I find quite relevant, and this is something that is very dear to the Semco Style Institute, is having an adult to adult conversations. We’re all adults in organizations, and if you reflect on it for a second, you too, have already been scolded about a mistake that happened at work. Someone automatically made assumptions about your work and performance and judged you based on that.

Imagine you were treated as an adult in those situations. Would it have been any different?

One of the leaders I’ve coached had an incident in his company. Luckily, he decided to handle it differently and used some of the practices he had learned; instead of making a decision and going straight into solution-mode, he did a rebel move into a new leadership style.

Leader: “I am going to have an adult-to-adult conversation with my staff, tell them why they disappointed me, how this actually is impacting me and why we need to change things.”

Me: “What next?”

Leader: “Well, next, I would love to hear their perspective on it. And I would love to hear how they suggest it should be solved. In other words, I don’t want to problem-solve for them. But I want to share my thoughts, share my point of view, in terms of why it’s bothering me, not what we should do, and see what the team thinks we could do, and how we feel about it. Maybe I’m completely wrong and being irrational but I will try doing it differently this time.”

Fast forward a couple of hours and I was in a team meeting shadowing this leader.

And, very interestingly, as I was looking around the room, I could tell everyone knew what was coming.

They just didn’t expect it to happen the way it did. They were expecting the leader (a parent figure) to come in and say: you have done this wrongly, you’re going to be punished now.

Ironically, no one had thought about how their actions impacted the leader and the owner of the business. And when the leader came forward and did exactly what he told me he would do, it was amazing to see how everyone not only assumed their responsibility but also took charge of seeking solutions to improve the workplace.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”.
Lao Tzu

The staff members were looking around and you could sense this feeling of: Is this really happening? Is he really asking us? And so, they asked him: “So what do you think is the solution?”

It was interesting to see how he resisted it for a second to let go of control but stood his ground and let them come up with solutions.

Fast forward again, the team actually started taking control and engaging in a conversation: “How should we solve it? What is your point of view?”

The next thing that I saw happening was that, not only were they actively listening to the leader and perceiving themselves as one, but they had already removed the invisible power distance, the ‘us and them’ in the whole team.

A couple of days after, the team came up with a solution that was much more effective than anything that either the leadership team or I, as a consultant, could have come up with to solve the issue.

“Leadership is an action, not a position.”
Donald McGannon

The truth is that leadership is not necessarily one thing that can be traced, there is no one pathway to becoming a leader. It’s not theory, it’s practice. Leadership is to be lived and learned, it is a journey, and it is everywhere.

If we assume that leadership is everywhere, that everyone is human, and that humans make mistakes, that’s when we realize we’ve all been on that journey.

I had once a leader that I looked up to and really enjoyed working for.

On a Monday, we were having a catch-up and I said “By the way, I met Amanda over the weekend. I didn’t know her, but she said she worked for you eight years ago.”

And that leader looked at me puzzled and replied “Oh, Amanda”.

I realized that comment had disturbed her and asked her, “What is it about Amanda?”

She then replied “The time I was in charge of Amanda, I was the worst version of myself. I wasn’t an emotional leader. I was a micromanager. And I was just controlling everything.”

This is one of the most inspirational leaders I’ve worked for, someone I learned a lot from. Would I have worked for her again? Without a doubt.

Yet, the leader I got to know is a completely different person than the leader that someone else got to know. And that’s where I truly understood that leadership is a journey.

”People follow leaders by choice. Without trust, at best you get compliance.”
Jesse Lyn Stoner

Now back to trust: why is that important in relationships to trust? Because the trust you gained by being an unconventional and ethical leader, is completely different from the trust you earn when acting and responding in a traditional way.

Why is that? Going back to my previous story, the leader literally told the team: we have an issue, but we trust that if I bring this up to you, you can solve it. He showed them he trusted the team despite them having previously made a mistake. And he trusted them enough to let go of the reins and hand the problem for them to solve.

And again, a couple of months forward the issue was solved.

The team still remembers and thinks of that moment as a pivotal moment. Because right at that moment, people knew that something was changing in the company, something they hadn’t seen happens before.

For those of you who have been on this journey of changing the way you work and starting to trust your people, are there also any milestones to be captured?

“The single most important ingredient in the recipe for success is transparency because transparency builds trust.”
Denise Morrison

And as a leader, there’s another important trait you must work on to be able to build trust: transparency.

I’ll introduce the theme by recalling Simon Sinek on the importance of taking into account the why behind every action we take. The why plays an important role in having the people we work with cooperate with the tasks and goals at hand.

And this is where transparency is key: when we let our staff know why we are asking them to do something, it changes their perception of the work they need to do.

Why? Because trust is built at that moment when with real transparency, the end purpose of a given goal or task is clearly and honestly explained.

“I believe inspiring trust with transparency and tenacity is the keystone to doing business.”
Ashwin Muthiah

Let’s assume it’s Friday afternoon. Picture yourself in a situation where your boss calls you in and says, “Hey, I’m just leaving for a minute but will need you to stay back in the office until I come back, ok? Thank you, see you soon!”

No way whatsoever. No transparency, right?

Let’s imagine the same situation but now the conversation starts with the why: “Hey, I just got some bad news about the business over the weekend which may potentially affect us in the long-term. Over the next few weeks, we have some tough decisions to make. I would really appreciate it if you could stay back a little bit longer today. I’m keen to hear your perspective on it and see how we can work it through together.”

A very different approach.

“Confidentiality and transparency are not mutually exclusive, but rather two sides of the same coin.”
Thomas de Maziere

Yet transparency doesn’t finish there. As a leader, you can also talk about transparency, for example, when it comes to salaries in business.

You might have your reasons why not to share this information – and that’s the flip side of transparency. Transparency in leadership can become challenging when you don’t know how to not share information.

If you want to be truly transparent, you also need to be transparent about the fact that you cannot be transparent about something. And that again builds trust: when we’re not being transparent, people will fill in the gaps.

Taking the same example as before, you are waiting in the office for your boss to come back.

In your mind, you are creating all these possible scenarios for why you needed to stay behind. Rather than taking that time to work on something else, you over-worry yourself.

He could have simply told you: “Hey, would you mind staying back in the office? You don’t have to worry about anything, it’s not about your work. I just can’t be transparent about it right now because it’s a sensitive topic, but I will need your help. I would really appreciate it if you stayed for a while longer.”

That’s being truly transparent, even when you can’t be transparent.

“Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency, and credit.”
Jack Welch

By being honest and telling the truth, you send your staff the message that they can trust you and that they themselves are free to be as open and sincere as you are.

And as you can conclude from the example above, when you treat people with respect and are accountable for what you do and what you say and make them accountable as well, you establish a bridge between you and your team allowing trust to be built maintained.

Another important ingredient for building trust and success in your business is humility.

Giving people the credit they deserve and making sure they are being acknowledged for the success you achieve as an organization or team is a motivational factor that should not be undervalued. You are only as good as a leader the more successful and happy your whole team is.

I could go on and on about the theme of trust, yet I believe that the information I have shared in these three blog pieces is enough to achieve my purpose: to bring your attention to and help you ponder on how much emphasis and effort you are putting into the building and maintaining trust in your organization.

Is what you are currently doing enough?

If you do not know the answer, be humble and ask your employees.

If you feel you do know the answer, the recipe is the same, ask your employees as well.

They are the soul of your business and the ones that can individually tell you exactly how the environment and the trust barometer of your organization are.

Keep safe and… trust!


From hierarchical leadership to being on the same boat as your employees

From hierarchical leadership to being on the same boat as your employees

This article is a part of my ‘Decision to Trust’ blog series.

“Trust should be the basis for all our moral training.”
Robert Baden-Powell

In part one of this blog piece series, The Decision to Trust, I dared leaders to be rebels, “to start trusting people and start fostering trust.”

I understand that is a challenge for some people, especially company owners and people who have spent years in leadership positions, keeping track of your staff’s deliverables ‘to make sure things run smoothly in the organization’.

Many of us are taught at a young age not to trust people. But what are in fact some of the reasons why we don’t trust people?

I would say we often don’t trust people because we don’t know them. We normally judge them on the first impressions we get or take any prior labels that have been shared about them to form an idea of who that person is.
Why don’t we put the labels aside, rethink the first impressions and be curious enough to discover the person’s character by ourselves? Why don’t we trust people in the first place?

I will start this piece with a simple exercise.

I will ask you to do something simple: relax and sit down with a piece of paper and a pen or simply go for a walk and write down your thoughts when you return home.
Ask yourself: Who is the person I trust the most?
And then ask yourself: What is it about that person that I trust? Why is that particular person so trustworthy to me?

Stop there for a moment to really think about it, visualize whichever memories you have that remind you of moments where that trust was built and solidified.

I have done this exercise myself and realized I always find myself always going back in time. We very often choose people with whom we have a deep, long connection with such as childhood friends, family members, relatives.

And there we have it, the very first trait of trust: knowing people.

When we know people, we trust them more or we trust them less. And this is based on the experiences and interactions we had with them.

“Trust is built with consistency.”
Lincoln Chafee

When I did this exercise I instantly thought of one of my childhood friends, Cem.

I trust him because I know that, in the past, whenever I needed him, he was there.
I trust him because I know I can talk to him about anything. And I know that if I pick up the phone, no matter what time it is, whatever the timezone, I can reach out to him. That has already happened in the past, so the trust grew stronger the more I got to know him.

So for leaders in organizations, get to know your people, get to know your colleagues. It’s as simple as that.

I know many people will object with: Ok, but what if you don’t have time? And what if it’s not in the company culture to interact so closely?
I don’t mean you have to go with your employees on a two-month vacation; you start by having a simple chat.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
Stephen Covey

At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was struggling to connect to each other online – or at least that’s what people said they felt was happening. At the moment, when many people are working remotely and the workforce is distributed, you don’t even really need to leave your room to connect to anyone, you can simply book a call.

Human beings, especially in an organization, keep focusing on the new and extra tasks that are on our plate. And we just easily and almost automatically forget about whichever work was done previously.

The following example portrays this situation clearly:
I was running a coaching session in an organization, and one of the leaders said it was really time-consuming to keep a connection with her staff:
Dom: “What are you doing at the moment?”
Leader: “Well, we have our daily catch-ups. And then I’m making it the point of speaking to people, and having one-on-ones.”

She had twelve people working with her and she was talking to every single one of them once a week for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
With the add-on of the hour with the entire team, there were a lot of catch-ups to do.

Our conversation continued and I kept asking her questions:
Dom: “What about your workload?”
Leader: “I’m actually not working more than I was before. I’ve just noticed that I’m spending a lot of time with my staff.”
Dom: “What about decision-making within the business and your unit?”
Leader: “That’s actually easier than ever before. We’re getting to conclusions quicker.”
Dom: “Okay, so pre-COVID, what did you use to do to keep the connection with staff?”
And there was silence.
She realized she wasn’t actually doing much about it before COVID.

So even if the catch-ups were shorter than 15 minutes with each person, you have 12 of them plus one hour with the team. That means she started spending four hours connecting with her staff every week – which she did not before – without having taken up more hours of work.

We had another chat eight months later when she called me out of the blue:
Leader: “You know Dom, I just want to get back to you about the chat we had. I had never realized that I wasn’t actually taking the time to connect with my staff. I’ve been keeping up the routine of having one-on-ones even when we went back to face-to-face work. And I’m finding now, a few months later, that the whole team environment has changed. I have a lot more trust in people and a lot less need for control.”
Dom: “What changed?”

She couldn’t pinpoint it at first. But what she realized is that prior to working remotely, she didn’t really have a connection with her staff. She was only part of the recruitment process at the last end of it. So when people started, she had only half an hour with the new member of staff, and then the onboarding was left to someone else. She would not take the time to connect with them in the first place. And building a connection is one of those important steps that actually make a difference when it comes to trust.

When I say trust here, I mean the decision-making process around trust: do I trust you to make a decision or not?

Am I confident enough to let you decide on processes, on situations that require using the organization’s resources, on communications with important clients that could be crucial to the success of the business?

There are many factors to consider in any of these situations but the truth is that if you assign a task to someone you should trust that person to do their very best without minimum or no supervision, and without reporting to you on their every move. Why would you have someone perform tasks in your organization that you wouldn’t trust to do a good job?

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.”
Frank Crane

If you know me and have read Decision to Trust (Part One), you know that I always start by fully trusting people. It’s my prerogative, and though I’ve gone wrong a few times throughout my life, I still prefer that to not giving people the benefit of doubt in the first place.

I don’t consider myself to be naive, very much the contrary. With all these years of consulting and learning about human behavior, I would like to think I have learned the basics of understanding behavioral clues.
I have been observing, testing, and iterating on how to bring out the best in people in both my personal and professional life. And this way, I’ve noticed there are a few actions steps one can take that make a difference in building trust, be it in corporations or even in social environments such as sports teams or classrooms.

One of the fundamental aspects of trust is the power distance between people – this automatically creates an ‘us and them’.

There’s usually little trust from leadership to staff and vice-versa. People tend to feel they are not in the same boat or level.
So what can you do to solve this?
The answer is quite simple and straightforward: flatten the lines of hierarchy between you and get on the same boat:

  • How do you expect a subordinate to feel comfortable enough to share their own thoughts and feelings with a superior?
  • How can they not fear saying something wrong and being judged? Would they feel their position is at risk because they may make a mistake and sound incompetent or challenge the superior’s decisions and point of view?
  • What if the superior disapproves of their initiatives?
    In many workplaces, one of the fundamental reasons why people stand back is fear. And you fear someone when you are not comfortable around them and don’t know them well enough to be yourself.

It’s very easy to trust someone that one can relate to, and the truth is, if we look deep enough, we can all relate to different people in different aspects.
Perhaps that’s why it’s very easy for children to trust people. They don’t look at people as superior or inferior to them, do they? They simply wish to connect to share moments of fun.

Whenever we reduce the social power distance between us and the other person we take a huge step forward into connecting to each other, and consequently, building trust.

Having said that, I will leave you today with one more exercise:

  • Recall the first time you met the last person that entered your company.
  • How did you introduce yourself? How did you interact with that employee? How much time did you invest in getting to know that person on more than a merely superficial level?
  • And lastly, do you know what truly motivates that person to show up every single day at work and invest energy into the company?

If you can do that with every member of your team, you are to be congratulated. If not, it might be worth thinking about if maybe there is a bit of work ahead of you to bridge that gap. The good news is that it will be worth it!

Let me know how you go, I would love to hear about your experience.

(To be continued…)


Make yourself uncomfortable: Start building trust in your organisation

Make yourself uncomfortable: Start building trust in your organisation

This article is the first part of my ‘Decision to Trust’ blog series.

“He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.” – Lao Tzu

So where do we start?

Well, even though everyone speaks about trust, we don’t seem to be doing much around building it in organizations.

And this is when I’ll ask you to be a brave leader and a rebel, starting today.

Often, the thoughts are that trust is gained with time. But if trust is achieved step by step, who takes the first one?

Is it you? Is it your team members? Is it someone external? Let’s say, a consultant?
So ultimately, when you’re in business, for example, a certain level of trust is transferred.
In a recruitment process for instance, just by thinking: “You know what? Our recruiters knew exactly the profile we needed when hiring this person. They know what they are doing.”

If you really want to be a rebel, you need to change your mindset.
I have already shared many tips and insights on how to do that in my previous blog piece, Put Life First: The New Frontiers of Work, but when it comes to trust, some foundations need to be laid in the first place.

Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.” – Stephen R. Covey

We know that most people can be trusted. Otherwise, the world wouldn’t be where it is today and we individually wouldn’t have achieved many of the great things we have.
I dare say, most people make it a massive generalization that people can’t be trusted whenever they feel betrayed or deceived by someone.

We all know some people in our lives we believe can’t be trusted. But is it truly so?
There are people I trust deeply that other people don’t.

So where did their relationship go wrong? Was it influenced by their environment and context? Is it connected to the first impression they had of each other? It would make sense, wouldn’t it?
If trust is gained, maybe individuals have trust in me because it is reciprocal, because I first approached them on a basis of trust.

“Because you believed I was capable of behaving decently, I did.” – Paulo Coelho

They might trust me as a colleague but might not trust my colleague, whom I trust.

So let’s study this triangle for a second: say I know John and Jenny. And I trust John, and I trust Jenny. But John doesn’t trust Jenny and vice-versa.
Am I wrong, am I being naive for trusting both of them? Am I trusting someone who’s not trustworthy?
The truth is both of them, individually, trust me. However, they don’t trust each other.

Shall we go away from the notion of trust as genetic? Which, from my personal experience, isn’t valid.
Let’s just make the assumption that trust is not something we genetically acquire. But that it is something earned or transferred/influenced through behavior.

If that is the case, why not just flip the script and start trusting people from the get-go?
If people end up being untrustworthy, then, we can actually detract it.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway

You can tell by now that trust is a topic that I’m very passionate about.

One of the reasons I’m very certain about this new way of building trust comes from my coaching experience in different organizations. And I would say that 70 to 80% of the issues that we identified when I started working with organizations are connected to trust, at every level of the organization.
If you observe the top managers, you realize they don’t trust each other. When you look at the middle managers, the front liners – they don’t trust each other. We look at the relationships between supervisors and staff and it’s clear that they don’t trust each other.

And, ironically, if we question an organization: is trust important? Up to 99% of the time, the answer I get is yes.
So here you understand the antagonism between people’s beliefs and what happens in reality. Everyone thinks trust is important but no one commits to it.
Trust is not up to anyone, not something anyone can do. Or perhaps people don’t have the time to invest in building it.

And in an environment with no trust, how do you expect to retain and attract talent? Chances are you lose the ongoing and escalating War for Talent.

I say: wake up.
If you don’t have the time, no one else will. If you don’t work on trust, no one else will – it’s as simple as that.

You might get lucky and occasionally work in an organization where trust was built. But it may not be the case, in most situations, it actually isn’t.

In either situation, there needs to be an investment on your part in building trust, and it can be done in many different ways.

I personally like Frances Frei’s model of building trust: the triangle of trust. According to her, the key values for building, maintaining, and rebuilding trust are empathy, logic, and authenticity.

And again, when we talk about leadership, every time I make a decision, I can make it in a way that will actually increase trust in the organization:

  • By adopting a customer service approach with each member of the team, truly being there for them, and listening (empathy)
  • Always explain your point and reasoning in a way that the other person understands or is able to question. Make sure you highlight the most important and impactful aspects of your decision/idea for other members (logic)
  • In short, quoting Frances: “Pay less attention to what you think people want to hear from you and far more attention to what your authentic awesome self needs to say.” Lose the fear of being yourself, as long as you respect the organization’s handbook and other people, showing your true colors is the best bridge towards trust-building (authenticity)

Let’s take a simple example from home life: when we ask our kids, parents, or partner to do something. In a healthy home environment, there is a “spider web” of trust already built organically where empathy, logic, and authenticity are present.

So whether the answer or information exchange is what we want to hear or not, that is not the point. The central piece is the connection there is with the other person and how comfortable you are communicating with no expectations and judgment but with openness and understanding.

Could you picture yourself in a similar situation when asking a colleague to complete an important task? Do you hold true to these three key values? And is this how it usually happens at your organization overall?

I say chances to trust are everywhere. And it is something we can build.
So make yourself uncomfortable – be a rebel, start trusting people and start fostering trust.

Are you ready for this challenge?
(To be continued…)


Is Working From Home Really for Everyone?

Is Working From Home Really for Everyone?

There are still many people who do not want to work from home.

Not every day. It’s not that they don’t want to work remotely; it’s just that they don’t want to work from home all the time.

Why? Because they need time off from their home life. It can sometimes be easy to draw lines between personal and professional life when working from home, and other times not.

People were faced with the challenge/opportunity of working remotely when the pandemic began. For many people, this was their first experience working from home, and they were unprepared.

There are numerous advantages, but it can be challenging to focus when you do not have the best possible home environment. This results in working longer hours and added stress from juggling multiple responsibilities and spreading your attention across various things.

When working from home it becomes increasingly hard to separate personal issues from your professional life.

What would you do if you suddenly had a mental breakdown during an online peer meeting?

  • Say you have a bad connection and leave?
  • Chat about your need to retrieve for a while and shortly explain you are dealing with a personal issue that you have failed to handle better?
  • Continue to participate in the call despite being visibly unwell and turn the participants’ attention towards you and what is causing you distress?

Is it possible that depending on the workplace culture your answer might be very different?

The fact is there is no correct answer. But one thing is certain: being vulnerable should be acceptable. Moreover, given the current situation, everyone is facing their own challenges when dealing with the COVID pandemic.

As we mentioned in our last article The War for Talent, it’s no wonder that many people are actually considering changing jobs or even careers. Many are the reasons: a change in priorities, feeling lack of support and safety from employers throughout the pandemic, a demand for better work culture, a need to adjust their job to suit lifestyle preferences, just to name a few.

Even though it has also been becoming increasingly hard for employees to set clear boundaries when working from and at home, these should be a priority and one of the first steps to take when creating a healthy work-life balance.

“I do not want to work from home and do not have a physical office. Where can I work from?”

The options at the moment depend on where you are located given the current COVID restrictions:

  • If possible, choose a co-working space close to your house. You can discuss your situation and talk about the possibility of the company covering the cost of the workspace.

Otherwise, you can find a coffee shop or a library and retreat into a quiet place when taking calls and having meetings.

  • If you are unable to leave the house and have no other available workspace, create your work bubble. Make your boundaries known to everyone and find a comfortable and private workspace to work in.

As much as possible, make sure that your sleeping space isn’t visible on your eyesight to avoid feeling easy and drawn to sleep.

And, because simple things work best, here are some helpful tips and habits to remember:

  • Remember to avoid digital fatigue and to plan strategies for achieving daily or weekly professional objectives and goals. Limit screen time by finding other activities and pastimes to do besides watching TV or Netflix.
  • Allot at least 10 minutes of not checking your mobile phone or any device after waking up and 30 minutes of digital detox before going to bed.
  • Integrate social interactions to avoid loneliness, whether it’s a virtual coffee or a weekly dinner with close friends.
  • Do exercise and schedule some self-care time in your calendar. Don’t limit yourself from allotting time for self-care, as it is imperative to combat fatigue even after these trying times.
  • Always keep yourself hydrated.

These are minor details that significantly impact people’s lives in ways that not everyone is aware of.
This brings up the issue of mental health, which many people have been struggling with even before the COVID pandemic.

Fear for your own safety and the safety of your loved ones, having to face an unknown future, and months of social isolation all add up to thousands of people feeling emotionally distressed.

Mental health is a necessity, but it remains a taboo subject for many people. It is up to each of us to break it by seeking professional help and sharing our needs with those with whom we work and live, as it is not always easy to go through it alone.

The less we know about ourselves and our needs, the more likely we are to experience burnout and depression.

It may still be a challenge for most people to get to know themselves; that’s why you must allow yourself to rest from working all the time and give yourself that much-needed self-care and alone time. This will help you relax and rejuvenate and provide you with time to realize and reflect on things that you’re not able to notice because of being focused on too much work.

Emotional intelligence is important for finding a work-life balance and helps us deal with strong emotions like anxiety and stress.

Keep in mind that being mentally healthy does not mean always feeling upbeat and happy. Be aware of toxic positivity which is vastly spread across social media channels and adopted in many workplaces nowadays. It indirectly promotes the concealment of negative emotional states and mental/psychological illnesses, leaving those who suffer from any of these with the pressure of pretending they are “doing great”. Even on a job platform like LinkedIn, professionals try to portray themselves as balanced people with successful careers, although this is not always the case.

Again, this is why we need to set boundaries between work time and personal time. We all need to understand that we have our own pace and don’t need to be too pressured by other people’s timelines.

Making yourself vulnerable has always been interpreted as lacking emotional intelligence, strength, and reliability. But is it true?

When it comes to sharing your own problems and personal life at work, use common sense and share as much information as you find adequate and feel comfortable with: allow yourself to be transparent when possible in sharing what is going on rather than having to lie about it.

Nowadays, it takes more courage to be vulnerable than it is to simulate being happy. And with every action, each of us helps set the standard for our workplace.

How many barriers can you break in your organization to make everyone feel comfortable being themselves?

Allow yourself to be human. And allow others to do the same.

Sandra Gouveia


Every year on October 10th, World Mental Health Day is celebrated. Consider what you can do this year to make your employees feel like they work in a safe environment where they can have open and honest conversations about their mental and emotional health. One simple action that could help you as an organization to achieve more mental health inclusiveness and transparency.