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How to build trust as a new senior leader in a hybrid working world

Written by Carol-Anne Whittaker - 4 minute read

One of the challenges that many senior leaders face when moving into a new role is how to build trust with their new team members, colleagues and peers.

With virtual and hybrid working becoming the new normal in pharma and biotech, this becomes even more challenging for leaders new in role who may rarely (or perhaps even never) meet with their team members face to face, are not in the same building, or often not even the same country.

When working with leaders who have moved to a new position as part of our senior leadership development programmes, either in their existing company or in a new organisation, some of the questions we and our coaching sessions support them to consider include the following:

  • Why is building trust critical when moving to a new healthcare leadership role?
  • How do you build trust with people you don’t know and potentially may never meet?

There is plenty of evidence [1] that trust in the workplace has a significant impact on how employees collaborate and work together on projects. When employees trust their leader as well as each other, they are much more likely to work together towards achieving the same ultimate business goals.

Recent research by Accenture [2] found that employees who trust their employers, experience 74% less stress and 40% less burnout.

When a new leader joins a team or organisation, the onus is on them to establish their credentials, and earn the trust of their team.

In today’s virtual or hybrid working environment, the lack of opportunity for face-to-face engagement makes this an essential part of any leader’s onboarding plan that must be proactively considered, rather than left to chance.

One of the established frameworks that we use with senior leaders for building trust is the trust equation, formulated by Maister, Green and Galford. This was first introduced in one of the pivotal works on trust, The Trusted Advisor which has been updated and refreshed in the 20th-anniversary edition released earlier this year.

What makes people trust us?

1. Credibility

This includes the words we say, the skills and credentials we bring, and the way in which people experience our expertise.

2. Reliability

This relates to the actions we take, our predictability, and the ways in which people find us dependable.

3. Intimacy

This is extent to which people feel they will be listened to, and that they can confide in us and perceive us as discreet, empathetic and safe.

4. (Low) self-orientation

This centres around how well people feel we are focused on them, rather than on ourselves.

How will working through the trust equation help senior leaders?

Working through the trust equation in a confidential coaching session with leaders who have recently moved into a new role and are establishing trust with their team helps them to determine what comes naturally for them; they will do it without thinking.

They can then pinpoint specific areas they need to pay particular attention to – conscious self-intervention – with team members to build trust.

Many leaders we work with in our senior leadership development programmes at Insocius have already conducted a leadership diagnostic (such as an insights profile) and have a good understanding of their own leadership strengths and development areas.

Combining this insight with a conversation around the trust equation can help leaders deepen their understanding and uncover new insights about themselves.

So, what is paramount when it comes to building trust as a new senior leader?

For many leaders, we find that when it comes to credibility, focusing on skills rather than qualifications is more helpful in building team trust.

When working in a virtual environment, paying attention to intimacy and the ability to make others feel safe, to demonstrate understanding, and to show empathy and personal vulnerability are key.

Leaders who role-model this during one-on-one conversations with their direct reports and with teams during virtual meetings are more likely to establish trusted relationships and engaged teams.

For a leader who is new in role, reliability is critical. For a team to know that their new leader is dependable, will show up consistently and who does what they say they will is a critical element to a successful start.

Enabling a team culture that helps team members to lower their own self-orientation also builds trust across the team. A team culture that values collaboration, transparency, and connection will give people a greater sense of security and connectedness, even when they can’t meet face to face.

Moving to a new role inevitably brings excitement, new opportunities, challenge, uncertainty… and so much more.

Investing in a coach during the first few months in role supports a both leader and their team through this period of transition helping to set a framework of trust that will serve everyone well in the months and years ahead.

At Insocius, our qualified coaches have worked in senior pharma executive positions, and at some of the world’s leading healthcare consultancies.

They have an in-depth understanding of the complex dynamics of the sector and have expertise in supporting pharma leaders with personalised, confidential and comprehensive programmes for themselves and their teams.

If you have recently moved to a new role or are anticipating a change in the future (whether fully office-based or in a virtual or hybrid working environment), we would love to talk to you about our customised and confidential leader new in role programmes and executive coaching. Simply get in touch and we’ll get the ball rolling!

In the meantime, be sure to read our case study showing how our senior leadership development programme helped a new pharma leader get established in a business-critical role. Showing how we helped a new pharma leader get established in a business-critical role.

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