Setting clear expectations when managing a growing team during changing times such as COVID-19 can be challenging and emotionally draining. Right now there are many emotions experienced by employees, senior leaders, and managing those of our staff members. Establishing clear expectations allows everyone to see what is expected of them, of myself as the leader, and helps to create transparency in the group. When there is a transparent environment, members of my team feel comfortable speaking up, sharing their ideas, and being innovative. Organizations can establish a psychologically safe space. Such a space allows individuals to be less critical and judgmental of one another. Employees will feel encouraged to be honest, take risks by sharing their opinions on technical issues without fear of retaliation. It is a space that allows employees and managers to vent, laugh, and get the mission completed. Such a space prevents conflicts before it escalates, while alleviating doubt, negativity, and gossip that can be toxic to a team.
Strategies To Build Trust Between Employees in a Growing Team
#1 Cone of Confidence
Setting the ground rules prior to each meeting is vital in creating a safe space for your team. As your team grows, personalities have to mesh to promote collaboration, communication, and transparency. A cone of confidence statement should be made so that individuals believe they can speak up without retaliation and fear of reprisal. This is a real issue. A cone of confidence empowers individuals to speak freely and share ideas that challenge one another, promote innovation, and learn/grow.
#2 Listen and Be Heard
Every individual in the team should have the opportunity to voice their ideas without fear of doubt. During times of change, employees have their opinions, they want to be heard and listened. They want the opportunity to contribute to change. As managers, you should listen with an open mind and acknowledge that you have heard them. One of my best suggestions, “I really appreciate your thoughts and ideas. Based on what you stated…” – this is a neutral statement that allows the manager to validate the employee has been heard without showing that they agree (or not) with the idea.
#3 Feedback – Take the Opportunity
Managers, one of the most important strategies to gain trust and respect from your workforce is to seek feedback. Specifically, seeking feedback on a presentation that you made at a new employee orientation, or seeking feedback on a technical element of a proposal empowers employees to feel belonged in your team. This is so vital to building trust, bridging differences in technical thoughts, and illustrates that you, the manager, respects your subordinates’ opinions and technical abilities. This helps to build trust! Now take into account their suggestions and implement what you can.
On a side note…Questions for Bina
Feedback: Why is feedback so important when growing your team–and how has feedback helped you better manage your team as you’ve grown and expanded?
Feedback is vital for internal and external growth. As a team, I have utilized my team meetings to provide feedback and take feedback for myself. Again, the idea is to grow and learn from one another. Each of us brings strengths and weaknesses in our skills and characters. The goal is to learn from one another to respect our strengths and weaknesses (rather than seeing them as faults). As a leader, I teach other leaders, including senior leaders to offer 360 degree reviews from subordinates. Their honesty will allow each of us to grow. In this, I offer conflict management tools and multicultural communication tools.
In your experience, what are some of the biggest challenges when managing a growing team–and how have you managed those challenges as your team has grown?
The biggest challenge in my experience has been to manage emotions. As individuals, we all experience moods and emotions. Sometimes, while they can be challenging to tell, cultural norms don’t allow people to express their opinions and/or issues that are bothering them. I recognized this right away, being Asian. I was taught not to share my emotions and opinions. In my leadership style, I want the buy-in from my staff, the experts, before I make a major decision that is mission related, and will impact them. Because some of the folks are Asian, they are reluctant to share their opinions. To encourage them to speak up and openly to share their ideas, I offer one-on-one coaching sessions, where they can share what is on their mind and I coach them on how to share these ideas in team meetings. This way, they gain the confidence to share their ideas and speak up during team meetings.