The one thing leaders can do to create more trust with their team

I recently wrote that we are having the wrong conversation about work. Remote work is never going away for knowledge workers, so we should be talking about trust, freedom, and asynchronous communication. That’s the next big conversation.

Deep trust is difficult for many leaders. Team members need to be trusted to be competent professionals with less oversight and more responsibility than ever before. Leaders need to extend deep trust to accomplish this, but with a system to verify when things are complete.

The one thing leaders must do to extend deep trust and give team members more autonomy is to ask for things within a closed system.

Here’s what I mean. Have you ever sent a team member an email about an important task, gotten no response, and then wondered if it would get done? How about a Slack, Teams, or text message? The problem with sending tasks like this is they can get missed by mistake, leaving the task overlooked, undone, and lost. This gives the leader the urge to “check-in” about what they asked someone else to do. The check-in is usually well-intentioned but leads the team member to feel micro-managed if they saw the task and had planned on doing it or embarrassed if they missed it.

The best place to ask for a task from a team member is in a task management or project management system. These are closed systems, so the task never gets lost. By having tasks in a system, you know if the task is complete, and you have a place to reference for a follow-up to check on it.

Leaders should ask for things from their team within a system, and then (if they are compelled to send an email about it) send an email with a link to that task. Later, in a regular meeting, the leader can follow up with team members about their lists, making sure everything is done.

This approach extends more trust to the team by eliminating those “I’m just checking in” messages, giving team members the space to work at their own pace. It also gives the leader more peace of mind, knowing that the tasks needed aren’t getting lost in the shuffle somewhere. This approach reduces micro-management and helps the whole team communicate better, getting more work complete, with more flexibility in the process.

If you are looking for a good task-management or project management tool to use with your team, I suggest checking out the following:

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