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What Now? Connection and Trust

Updated: Nov 4, 2023

The recent waves of layoffs at many organizations continue to sting. Even as friends and former colleagues begin to take down their green Open to Work banners on LinkedIn, there are many others whose banners remain or putting up the same banner again. This is hard. I am encouraged by people's generosity with one another in support of those whose roles were impacted. People are listening, sharing open positions, reviewing resumes, sharing tips, and so much more. (If you were impacted, please know you I am here to serve and support however I can.)

At the same time, thousands of people still have roles in these companies. People are struggling with what is left, maybe even survivor's guilt. They are facing uncertainty in an organization that feels completely different, trying to account for who is left and what happens next. They may be anxious and paralyzed with more questions than answers, facing more work with fewer people, unclear roles, and not sure how to find inspiration again. Leaders may be struggling with the same, not sure how to rebuild.

I want to offer that we start with the most important, the most foundational: building meaningful connection and trust with one another.

Meaningful connection, as explained in Brené Brown’s work (2021), includes staying curious and open to learning, walking alongside people, and honoring their experiences. This means approaching our friends and colleagues facing uncertainty with a generous concern and openness to listen without judgment. Connection means not running away from vulnerable conversations and being in the moment with someone when they express their fears, concerns, or even optimism. Cultivating connection means honoring the feelings and experiences that people share with us. Cultivating meaningful connection facilitates trust.

Trust can be built in the small interactions, how we connect one-on-one, how we show up in meetings, the exchange of a few words via Slack or whatever communication tool. Charles Feltman, author of The Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work (2009), defines trust as "choosing to risk making something vulnerable to another person's actions." This is hard stuff! But it can be done, as Feltman describes, with sincerity, reliability, competence, and caring.

But how?

I offer Brené Brown's operationalization of Braving Trust, behaviors that build trust over time. I am especially leaning into being reliable (doing what I say I will do), integrity (courage over comfort, staying in conversations when people are processing emotions), nonjudgement (hearing people ask for what they need with care and not judgment, asking for what I need without self-judgment), and generosity (assuming the best and positive intent).

Effective leadership requires meaningful connection and trust. Extra tough times are no exception. We may not yet know what tomorrow looks like, but we can build trust little by little, starting today.

(Originally published on LinkedIn. Adapted with new content.)


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