Communicating During a Crisis: Trust is the Coin of the Realm

Distance tends to clarify relationships. (I wish I knew that in college…)

Human beings are social creatures who thrive on connection and community. Relationships and trust are built over time through shared experiences and common bonds. When we separate from each other for extended periods of time, the strengths of our relationships are challenged. Distance clarifies. The strong ones survive. The weak ones don’t.

This health crisis has caused many businesses to pivot quickly to entirely remote relationships. And lots of pieces are being written about the best ways to communicate during this time. Remote communication tips have become a cottage industry almost over night. But beyond all the great tips about eye contact in the camera, managing your pace of speech, and engaging your remote audience, there is a larger element that will have a disproportionate impact on your success communicating from afar: trust.

If you have built trust and credibility with the colleagues you used to see every day, your relationships will carry you through this period. If you have not, your team will almost certainly diminish or fracture. If your communication with a colleague was barely acceptable when you saw each other every day, it will almost certainly be worse now. Because it is easier to avoid each other and the hard conversations. Because it is easier to hide things from each other. Because it is easier to “be unavailable.”

If you have a good team like I do, now is the time rely on that trust that you have built over time. Trust them to do their jobs. And hope that they trust you to make good decisions. Stay in contact, but don’t crowd each other. Use video when you can. Try to make each other laugh. Give each other “grace and space” to live out this crisis each in our own way.

And for all of us, remember that trust is required in all directions. You want trust from your boss? You have to show her/him that you deserve that trust. You want trust from the team you lead? You have to show them that you deserve that trust.

There are many casualties from this health crisis (more on that in a moment). People are getting sick and dying. Health care workers are exhausted. Everyone is stressed. Businesses are suffering, and many are shutting down.

But one of the underestimated costs of this crisis is the distance from some of the people we care about, and the cost of that distance on our souls. I miss my teammates. My colleagues and I are navigating this well, about as well as a business like ours can. But I miss my team. I thrive on their energy, and I love listening to their brainstorming sessions around our conference table. I miss the unscheduled drop-ins for a quick question. I miss their presence and their energy. I miss having lunch together. And I am not afraid to admit it. I love the team I lead. I miss them very, very much.

As always, trust matters. And it is times like this when the trust you have built pays the biggest dividends.

Here’s to better days ahead.

(Post script: Today’s post is written in honor of my uncle Tom Delaney, who died on Wednesday night from complications due to the corona virus. He is the first person in my life to be taken from us due to the virus. He was a father figure for me, especially in my younger years, and was without question the most honest and principled person I have ever met. His word was non-negotiable. And no one has ever loved a family more than Tom loved his. Rest in peace, Uncle Tommy. Better days ahead, indeed.)

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.