Prior to COVID, flexible work environments were not all that common. The theory went that giving employees the option to work outside the four walls of a corporate office would translate to declines in productivity and engagement. In the last year, we learned that this view was outdated. In fact, a recent PwC study shows that 94 percent of employers said productivity in 2020 was the same as or higher than prior to the pandemic, and more employees (34 percent to 28 percent) said they were more productive now than before.
So, why the anxiety? Fear of change? Lack of confidence? Will work ever return to a pre-COVID office/travel engagement levels? Will performance levels continue to improve, or have we reached an inflection point for productivity?
Remote work can be a fulfilling and supportive experience for employees and employers, but this reality also comes with challenges. These challenges have to be overcome by creating a new level of collaboration among teams. To do so, we must develop greater trust, an essential ingredient to success that is both tricky to build — and easy to lose. Fortunately, there are effective strategies for inspiring a trust-based culture built for the future of flex work and for long-term business success.
Four Trustworthy Traits
Leaders have stepped up amidst the challenges of the last 18 months to identify best practices and a few are shared below: These demonstrate that who you want to be as a leader is determined by how you lead.
“It’s a Privilege”
All great leaders know — and show — that their role as a “leader” is a privilege, not a right. Their dedication to serving those around them and to elevating others above themselves will inspire confidence among their team(s).
“There’s No ‘I’ in Team”
Communication is important. Details matter. Everyone is watching what you do, how you act and what you say — words like “I,” “me” or “my’ do not have a place in the leadership vocabulary. “We,” “us” and “our” more accurately reflect positions on a team. I play a position on team. Our team. I don’t achieve objectives as a leader; rather, I’m proud to be a member of a team that does. “There’s no ‘I’ in team” may be simplistic, but that doesn’t make it untrue.
“Leadership Requires No Title”
To get the most out of a complex organization, the concept that works best is simple: Everyone works for everyone. To win, we need to amplify and empower all roles. No one needs a “C” in front of their title to be a great leader. CEOs, CIOs and CFOs are important, but true success requires contributions and leadership from every role and position. Organizations that embrace and support this idea will be well-positioned for any challenges that come their way.
“Become a Follower”
The very best leaders know how to follow. Understand this: The key ingredient of leadership isn’t authority — it’s humility. There is no job — and no detail — too big or small for anyone on a winning team. When we have clear objectives and we all focus on achievement, we all win.
Inputs vs. Outcomes
An old adage we subscribe to at SAP is ‘manage the inputs, not the outcomes.’
For example: Trust is an outcome. To achieve trust, which is absolutely foundational to all winning cultures, we must focus on the inputs that build it. Step by step, our actions define who we are. Consistency. Transparency. Collaboration. Equal opportunity. These are crucial inputs for building trust and inspiring your teams.
Another example, consistent communication (structured or unstructured) shows our teams we are present, listening and open. Transparency gives everyone a sense of ownership in what’s happening with the business. And opportunity — which must be equal – creates a true meritocracy across our company, one where promotion, advancement and success is based solely on performance. No one is asking for a leg up. What people really want is a fair shot and a level playing field. With this, our people will give the team everything they’ve got.
Put these things together, and we’ll find our teams poised for the highest levels of engagement driving massive success. So, here’s to letting our people lead the way. Trust in them, align the corporate interest to the employees’ interest, and we all win. Trust is key.