27 September 2023

The importance of trusting your team to do their jobs

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Maree Burgess* discusses a few common stumbling blocks for managers of remote teams and how to avoid them.

As we settle into a new way of working, flexible working is becoming a permanent feature of the workplace.

More people are choosing to work from home several days a week, and the struggle for managers to stay on top of what everyone is doing and trusting them to do it is increasing.

I remember many years ago, working one day a week from home was being trialled.

Many managers were very nervous about this as they felt that the team would slack off on those days and not work.

One manager distrusted her team and went to the extreme of doing home visits of those who requested this flexibility and ‘audited’ their environment for the appropriate home office set-up!

We’ve come a long way since then, and the last two years have shown us that productivity doesn’t need to diminish based on where people work.

Over time I think we will find that flexible and hybrid working will show a lift in productivity as people are not forced into working in a timeframe that has never suited them.

Don’t expect your team to work as you do.

In my experience when teams understand what they are required to do, they are doing the work and meeting deadlines, there is no need to check if they are working 8.30am to 6.00 pm.

You know whether you are an early bird, or a night owl and when you do your best work.

Everyone works differently and I’m finding that as people can work in accordance with their body clock, they can focus on doing their most important work when they are most productive.

This may not necessarily be between business hours.

Managers struggling to build trust through their screens, should remember that basic management skills are still essential, just as they are with teams who sit together in an office.

We need to trust them, to gain their trust.

I find the leaders who show through their actions that they trust their team, get this trust back.

The leaders I work with demonstrate trust by:

  • Being reliable and doing what they say they will do.
  • Accepting others for who they are without judging.
  • Being open and transparent and share as much as they can with their team.
  • Creating rapport and building harmonious relationship with each member of their team.

Team purpose

I’m also aware that a manager may trust their team, however the team may not trust each other when they can’t see what the others are doing.

This is where team purpose is essential.

Aligning the team with a shared purpose reduces the risk of the team splintering and becoming a group of individuals getting on and doing their own work without considering the rest of the team.


When we were forced to change how we worked two years ago, I encouraged my clients to over-communicate to their team.

For them to keep getting in touch, and sharing more information than they may have been comfortable with.

And this was great initially.

However, teams became tired of receiving too many emails; phone calls; Zoom meetings; and instant messages.

A balance had to be found.

As we become more comfortable with this new working model, communication is still essential.

It must be the right amount and the right way, that the team can do their work efficiently.

It must be enough that you know how each team member is going, particularly their emotional well-being.

This means selecting mediums that have the best chance of getting your message across.

The best way to discover this is to ask your team.

In summary, I suggest that you identify the skills and behaviours you may need to develop to continue to build trust with and within your team.

The leaders who are excelling at the hybrid working model are the ones who have highly practiced behavioural skills (also called ‘soft’ skills).

Behavioural skills include things like effectively communicating and listening, being able to deal with challenging people, giving and receiving feedback, building rapport, delegating, being empathetic, and managing conflict.

This is leading, which requires new skills, so be prepared to become a learner again.

*Maree Burgess, author of Level Up, is a trainer, coach, facilitator, author and speaker whose practicality supports leaders and teams to create cultures that people want to be part of and perform at their best for, to greatly improve overall performance. She can be contacted at mareeburgess.com

This article first appeared at mareeburgess.com.

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