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Building Trust and Transparency in Leadership for the Hybrid Era


Remote meeting. Man working from home, remote office concept.
Remote meeting. Man working from home, remote office concept.

Introduction

Over the years of supporting teams across different companies, I've seen how important trust and openness are for leaders, especially now that many people work both in the office and from home. In this article, aimed at executives and managers, I'll share some strategies I've learned for building and keeping trust in a hybrid work setup. I'll focus on clear communication and credible leadership practices. I've observed that authentic leaders who show empathy can create a positive culture that breaks down the barriers holding too many people back.


Understanding the Trust Gap in Hybrid Work

Before diving into solutions, let's take a hard look at the challenges of building trust in hybrid work environments based on what I've witnessed:


1. Less Face-to-Face Interaction Strains Relationships

With people working from different places and time zones, whether in hybrid or fully remote settings, there are fewer chances for in-person chats and bonding. Video calls can feel impersonal, with little talk or bonding, draining energy. Leaders used to building rapport in the office may struggle to connect with remote team members, leading to misunderstandings and distance.


2. Unequal Access to Information Breeds Suspicion

Information can easily get siloed when some people are in the office, and others are remote because impromptu discussions and decision-making often occur among physically present people. Remote team members might miss these casual updates and feel excluded from important decisions, breeding suspicion that they're not getting the full picture. This lack of transparency can erode trust.


3. Inconsistent Communication Fuels Uncertainty

Hybrid work often means juggling multiple communication channels—emails, chat apps, video calls, and in-person meetings. If leaders are inconsistent in sharing information, this can create confusion and anxiety. People may fill in the gaps with worst-case scenarios, undermining trust.


4. Micromanagement Signals Lack of Faith

With less visibility into day-to-day work, some leaders may be tempted to micromanage remote team members. Constantly checking in or demanding updates can make people feel untrusted and stifle initiative. Conversely, completely hands-off leadership can make remote workers feel adrift and unsupported.


These factors can chip away at the foundation of trust, making it harder for hybrid teams to collaborate effectively and weather challenges. However, leaders can bridge the trust gap with the right mindset and strategies.


Strategies for Building Trust in Hybrid Teams

While there's no quick fix for building trust, especially when people are working apart, leaders can create a culture of openness and psychological safety through consistent practices:


1. Communicate with Radical Transparency

Make a habit of sharing as much information as possible with your team, even if it initially feels uncomfortable. Be upfront about company goals, challenges, and changes, and always strive to communicate clearly - don’t confuse people. Use multiple channels to reinforce key messages and ensure everyone is on the same page.


2. Create Equal Access to Information and Opportunities

Ensure remote team members have the same access to resources, training, and career growth as those in the office. Offer recordings of important meetings and provide comprehensive notes to ensure everyone can stay informed. Alternatively, consider creating shared video summaries that capture key points for those who prefer not to attend live. Rotate in-person and virtual leadership opportunities so everyone feels equally valued.


3. Lead with Vulnerability and Empathy

Share your struggles and uncertainties to create a safe space for others to do the same. Acknowledge the challenges of hybrid work and show empathy for the unique pressures people are facing. Make time for one-on-one check-ins to listen and offer support.


4. Follow Through on Commitments

Do what you say you'll do, whether providing resources, giving feedback, or advocating for your team, regardless of whether it's in a remote, hybrid, or on-site setting. If you need to change course, explain why and involve people in finding a new solution. Consistency and follow-through are key to building credibility in any work environment.


5. Give Autonomy and Trust

Resist the urge to micromanage, even if you can't see people working. Set clear expectations and allow people to meet them in their own way. Trust that your team wants to do good work, and give them the space to do it. Offer support and feedback, but don't hover.


6. Celebrate Wins and Learn from Failures

Recognise people's efforts and achievements in the office, remotely, or in a hybrid setting. Share success stories and give credit where credit is due. When things don't go as planned, focus on learning and problem-solving rather than placing blame. Create a culture where it's safe to take risks and learn from mistakes in any work environment.


The Role of Technology in Building Trust

While technology can't replace the human touch, it can be a powerful tool for creating transparency and connection in hybrid teams. Here are some ways leaders can leverage tech to build trust:


1. Use Video for Important Conversations

Use video calls for important team meetings, one-on-ones, and feedback sessions. Seeing people's faces and body language helps create a sense of presence and pick up on nonverbal cues. It's not the same as being in person, but it's better than just audio or chat.


2. Create Virtual Watercoolers

Set up informal virtual spaces where people can chat, such as themed Slack channels or coffee-break Zoom rooms. Encourage people to share non-work-related updates, photos, and stories to build personal connections and recreate casual office banter.


3. Make Information Searchable and Accessible

Use shared documents, wikis, and project management tools to create a central information hub that everyone can access anytime, whether remote, hybrid, or on-site. Actively promote this hub to ensure that important decisions, policies, and resources are documented, widely known, and easily found by all team members. This creates a sense of transparency and empowers people to find answers independently, regardless of their physical location.


4. Gather Regular Feedback and Insight

Use surveys, anonymous feedback tools, and regular check-ins to gather insights into people's feelings and needs. Share the results openly and involve the team in brainstorming solutions. Such transparency shows that you value their input and are committed to improving things.


5. Celebrate Milestones and Successes Virtually

Find creative ways to recognise people's achievements and celebrate team milestones, even when you can't be together in person. Send virtual cards, host online award ceremonies, or create a digital wall of fame. These small gestures can go a long way in making people feel appreciated and connected.


The Importance of Consistency and Follow-Through

Building trust is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Leaders must be consistent in their words and actions to earn people's confidence. This means:


1. Regularly Reinforcing Values and Expectations

Continuously communicate and model the behaviours and values important to your team and organisation. Ensure everyone knows what's expected of them and hold people accountable fairly and transparently.


2. Keeping Promises and Admitting Mistakes

If you commit to something, follow through, even if it's difficult, whether in a remote, hybrid, or on-site setting. If you make a mistake or fall short, own up to it and make amends. People respect honest and accountable leaders in any work environment.


3. Consistently Seeking and Acting on Feedback

Don't just ask for feedback once and then forget about it. Make it a regular practice to gather input and ideas from your team, and show them that you're listening by taking action on their suggestions. If you can't act on something, explain why and keep the conversation going.


4. Continuously Investing in Relationships

Building trust is never really done. Continue to invest time and energy in getting to know your team members as whole people, not just workers. Make space for casual conversations, personal updates, and check-ins. Show that you care about their well-being and growth, not just their output.


Conclusion

Building trust and transparency in leadership is more important than ever in the hybrid era, where people work apart and face new challenges daily. Leaders can create a culture of trust that brings out the best in their teams by communicating openly, leading with empathy, and consistently following through on commitments.


It's not always easy, requiring vulnerability and effort every day. But from what I've seen, when leaders are willing to build genuine relationships and create psychological safety, their teams are more engaged, collaborative, and resilient in the face of change.


As we navigate this new world of work, I hope that more leaders will embrace the practices of transparent and empathetic leadership and create workplaces where everyone feels valued, supported, and empowered to do their best work, no matter where they are.


Call to Action

If you're a leader looking to build trust and transparency in your hybrid team, I invite you to try some of the strategies discussed here. Start with one or two authentic practices and build from there.


Share your experiences and insights in the comments below. What's working for you, and where do you struggle? Let's learn from each other and support one another in creating more open and empathetic workplaces.


Remember, building trust starts with each of us being willing to show up authentically and vulnerably. It takes courage, but it's worth it. Our teams are counting on us to lead the way.


About the Author

Giles Lindsay is a technology executive, business agility coach, and CEO of Agile Delta Consulting Limited. Giles has a track record in driving digital transformation and technological leadership. He has adeptly scaled high-performing delivery teams across various industries, from nimble startups to leading enterprises. His roles, from CTO or CIO to visionary change agent, have always centred on defining overarching technology strategies and aligning them with organisational objectives.


Giles is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI), the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT (FBCS), and The Institution of Analysts & Programmers (FIAP). His leadership across the UK and global technology companies has consistently fostered innovation, growth, and adept stakeholder management. With a unique ability to demystify intricate technical concepts, he’s enabled better ways of working across organisations.


Giles’ commitment extends to the literary realm with his book: “Clearly Agile: A Leadership Guide to Business Agility”. This comprehensive guide focuses on embracing Agile principles to effect transformative change in organisations. An ardent advocate for continuous improvement and innovation, Giles is unwaveringly dedicated to creating a business world that prioritises value, inclusivity, and societal advancement.


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