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How to lead effectively through building trust in a virtual world

Aidan Stoate interviews Andrew Curtis, one of our trusted associates here at Inspire Group.

Andrew Curtis is captivated by finding the answer to one question 'How do you really help someone?'. This search began in his teens as he tried to find ways to help friends and family members with mental health challenges and has since become part of his journey as an entrepreneur, leadership coach and training facilitator. Andrew's skills as a communicator are combined with his understanding and compassion for the human condition; fostering safe and inspiring environments where life-changing insights are possible.

Listen to this episode to get tips and techniques on how to effectively lead and engage with people in a virtual working environment and how to facilitate great learning experiences and meetings online.

Some of our favourite quotes from Andrew in this episode:

"The only way to get trust is to give trust. If I'm the leader then I have to show trust first. I have to look for ways that I trust you."

"If I have trust I have everything."

"Your energy will follow where your heart is, and you can't fake that long term."

Listen to the interview here:

 

Or read the interview summary here:

It'd be great to hear about the ways in which you've been helping people in this most unique of years that we've experienced?  

What I found very early on was that although our intentions are good, the strategies we employ are often not particularly helpful. I think it’s important to stop and listen to what people are saying. As a leader, I had to learn that my intention to be the one with the answer to every question was sometimes getting in the way of me helping people, because they didn't feel heard; I was just kind of jumping in. So that would be the place that I start from. 

How do you support your team in different ways, without being the person who solves the problem necessarily? 

What you're really talking about there is the need for a high-trust environment. An environment where you're allowed to not have the answer. I want my people to be able to tell me when they don't understand and when they don't have all the information. I'm asking them to trust me. When it comes to creating that trust environment, what I realised is that I look for opportunities where I can, and share moments where I haven't understood, moments where I have failed, where I have not lived up to my objectives. It's amazing what follows from that.  

What are some of your tips and techniques for how to engender trust and how to communicate effectively when you can't be in the same physical space?  

In an online meeting I find first of all I have to be very clear about what I'm asking from people and then secondly how I want people to respond. For example, if I’m trying to get the opinion of 10 or 20 people, then using the chat function is a great way to start that conversation. You can also use things like breakout rooms as well, if you want to have smaller conversations within that. You can then get those groups back, and call on them individually to share what they discussed. Or get everybody back together and ask to see those thoughts in the chat. You work your way through all the comments that way. It's much more planned and controlled and people will feel a lot less stressed when you do that, because they get a sense that somebody has control of where it's going.  

What are some of the things that you feel will make for an engaging and inspiring virtual learning experience?  

When we're talking about the idea of how you really help someone, one of the most powerful things that I've discovered is that if a person is safe to notice their own thinking about something that's where change can become possible. If I think of myself as the leader, I ask how can I give trust first, how can I give safety first? How can I give a sense of non-judgement first, and then I can build trust from there.

As a facilitator in a virtual environment, what did you feel you had to adapt or change in terms of your typical approach in order to make those sessions successful?  

When I started these virtual workshops with people, I would express that this is an unfamiliar time, this is a different time and we're all figuring this out together. We know the goal is that we want to share some really good ideas, and we want to get some really good conversation going. Things might not always go the way we want or there might be something else that we're just going to improve as we go along. As a result, I've always had good experiences within those environments, because that trust I asked for at the beginning gives me the ability to learn and pick things up as I go along.  

Leaders and organisations are struggling to re-establish their culture post COVID. What do you feel is the best way for some of those organisations to find that balance during this time of transition and change? 

I genuinely feel that trust is the absolute foundation of any successful organisation. One of the best books on this is Patrick Lencioni’s ‘The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team. What is identified in this book is that we often think of communication as the most important thing. The thing that I would always fixate on first is how am I looking to build trust within my team? I would focus on that. What have I done to show people that I trust them individually? And as a team? And then you can build from that point up. 

 

Being a great virtual leader requires some new skills.

Our Virtual Learning Series will help you and your team close the virtual leadership skill gaps.

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Dan Tohill

Written by Dan Tohill

Dan is CEO of Inspire Group, he is a learning specialist with a background in business psychology, which provides an academic underpinning to his innovative and pragmatic solutions. Over the last 30 years Dan has led a number of high-profile learning initiatives in New Zealand, Australia and Asia.