Work-From-Home – A Test Of Trust!

The past couple of months caught everyone by surprise; businesses and employees alike. While most large businesses had their ‘business contingency plans’ in place: no one would have ever imagined that the shift to remote work from home will be so sudden and swift.

Our firm, Equinox Consultants, an Indian human resource consulting and training service provider with more than 25 years of experience in agile ways of working like everyone else, had to transform our business into a remote-only operation, virtually overnight.

The transition to a work-from-home context was a breeze, as we have been operating that way for over a decade. The only challenge we had to and continue to work on is to transition all our contact training modules to a remote delivery model. When I say all, I intended to say that most of our services were already prepped for remote delivery.

In over two decades what we’ve noticed is that there are cultural traits to our self-managing organization that lends itself particularly well to remote working. It boils down to what I see as the essential building block of all teamworking and collaboration – ‘Trust’. The need for trust-building is even more amplified when you have co-workers working remotely.

I would like to share our own experience of successful remote working which will help your teams and business organization build and maintain trust.


What’s worked for us:

Communication – Speed, Clarity and Frequency

The biggest pain area for people who work remotely is when they do not get quick, clear and continual communication from the stakeholders with whom they work closely. The fact that digital communication makes one feel that ‘Once I have sent a message, it is assumed that the receiver has read and understood it’. The onus then quickly shifts to the receiver to respond quickly to the messages he/she receives. Any delay can lead to ‘negative’ and ‘suspicious’ thoughts in the minds of the sender who may be prone to ‘imagine’ and attribute agendas.

So the ‘speed of response’ is of paramount importance to build and and sustain trust. The other important factor is to provide clarity – not just once but on a continual basis. Therefore my take is communicate, communicate, communicate. Share important information (even if it’s incomplete) right away once you have it. This will especially hold true in matters of financial, strategic decisions, of policy, priorities, accountability and daily goals.

If you keep people in the dark during uncertain times it leads to needless anxiety and worry. People work better when they are less stressed. Sharing clear and timely information across functions, and giving everyone an effective overview, means people can take action to steer the business in the right direction.

Frequency of your communication matters too. The lag should be minimal. Your quarterly should turn to monthly; monthly to weekly and weekly to daily.  That’s the paradigm you need to shift towards.  The longer the gap the higher the chances of disruption and break in trust levels.

Decision making will move towards becoming an ‘in-the-moment’ process where you just cannot afford to call for virtual or physical meetings all the time to discuss and take important decisions. When everyone understands what’s going on they will be able to make smarter decisions. Do whatever it takes to get the message out there.  Encourage people to speak up and openly share problems and challenges and provide continual updates on workloads.

Leadership will be put to test in remote working setups. There will be an increasing load on the leaders to communicate fast, frequently and with clarity. The importance of communication ability of your leaders couldn’t have been more than in remote working situations.

Openness and transparency

There is chance that Managers feel an increasing need to micromanage. They may fear that employees working from home might be less productive and doing personal stuff than real work. This will be accentuated by a lot of social media posts which showcase non-work skills of employees.  Such anxiety can lead to excessive control measures which might lead to a lot of stress and feeling of dissatisfaction.

The way to deal with such anxiety starts with building openness and transparency in your transactions.

You must keep all your employees informed all the time and shouldn’t keep them in the dark. With team members working from home it’s easy to forget to relay important information regarding specific roles, expectations and task deadlines. Providing enough context and ensuring your team have access to all necessary information is a must. Communicating rules of engagement, setting boundaries, the rationale behind decisions, seeking and giving continual feedback can go a long way in building openness and transparency. When your employees see visible actions of your trust in them they will reciprocate the same in your leadership.   The direct benefit of trust based on the foundation of openness and transparency is ‘speed’ of work.


An ability to decentralize the decision making process, letting go of hierarchies and giving your employees freedom to make decisions about their work is the key when you have your workforce operating from home.

When working from home, everyone’s managing themselves to an even greater degree as it is; it’s important to give everyone the full autonomy to do that in order for them to do it well. This is where situational awareness comes in: sharing objectives and goals is crucial. It makes it easy for people to manage themselves better in deciding what to focus on now and what to leave for later.

Set up communities of practice

An increased level of self-regulation would mean that your employees become more interested in learning how to do their work effectively. That would mean reduced need for a centralized training function to train the entire workforce or help everyone develop new methods for remote working. Instead, setting up of online communities of practice can help colleagues freely share tips and tools in a peer-to-peer network structure. Everyone is learning alongside one another

If someone is struggling with a particular task, it’s likely that someone else somewhere in the organization has already had that same problem and would have even solved it. The solutions to problems can then be shared freely across the organization which would mean that there is no time wasted in reinventing the wheel and all employees feel supported as they perform their roles. While most large corporations do have the knowledge management practices in place, our experience shows very limited use of such networks. The work-from-home scenario today helps to harness the power of communities even more and go on to increase collaboration leading to trust.

Digital socializing

Those moments at the coffee machine shouldn’t disappear just because everyone’s working remotely from home. Organizations must understand the importance of casual conversation and social connections. Use online meeting rooms for not just work but after hour hangouts as well. It’s a great idea to encourage people to come up with creative ways to build social bonds. It’s a great opportunity to involve families in the social events by organizing collective fun events and tasks.

It’s all a good time and keeps the socializing going. It’s important to check up on people too. During the pandemic, people will feel more anxious than usual, and there’s no way for your human resources team to take care of everyone. When people know everyone’s got each other’s backs, there’s less of a sense of isolation and more of a sense of trust: The feeling that, together, everyone will be able to continue doing a great job and achieve higher levels of performance even if it’s from the comfort of their homes.

How To Avoid The ‘Halo Effect’ In Meetings?

“The halo effect in groups is evident in the standard practice observed in meetings which gives too much weight to the opinions of those who speak early and assertively, causing the others to line up behind them” says Daniel Kahneman. I couldn’t agree more.

I often find during meetings the discussions often veer towards the thoughts and opinions expressed by people who are first off the block or are vocal to the point of being domineering. Especially so when such opinions come from people who lead the meeting are in a position of power in relation to the others. This gets confirmed by my observations from the ‘mountain survival’ activity which we facilitate in both our team and leadership programs; where a group is required in consensus to rank in order of importance twelve items which will help them survive.

Often valuable information from the less vocal and passive members is missed by the whole group as the meeting gets dominated by those who are vocal leading to their failure.

However, there are teams which succeed or come close to expected outcomes! This happens when you help the team decorrelate errors of judgment arising from the ‘halo effect’. We ask each team member to rank the items in the order they feel is important for their survival and then each one is provided with full opportunity to explain the rationale behind their individual judgments. As in the book ‘wisdom of crowds’, individuals tend to do very poorly, but pools of individual judgments do remarkably well. When we look at individual ranking sheets they seem to be way off the mark but the average of all rankings comes closer to the solution. The teams which follow this method almost always have the survival advantage.

How can we then reduce the negative impact of the ‘halo effect’ in our meetings?

We use a simple rule while we facilitate organizational leadership meetings (especially when we work with the executive on Goals, Objectives and Key Results). Before any issue is discussed, all members of the team should be asked to write a very brief summary of their position. We provide them with post-it pads and ask them to put all their thoughts and in complete silence. This procedure makes good use of bringing the value of the diversity of knowledge and opinions in the group. It cuts the individual bias from influencing the course of discussions leading to productive outcome.

You must however be willing to invest time in such a process which most teams sadly don’t commit to.

Would you have any more ideas on reducing the ‘halo effect’ from your meetings?

7 Toxic People You Must Avoid At Work

In an already stressful workplace where you grapple daily with deadlines, deliverables, reports, plans, reviews and meetings, it is important that you keep your sanity. This would mean that you should keep yourselves in a positive frame of mind. Easier said than done, what with so many toxic people to add to your woes. Here is a list of toxic people you must avoid at your workplace to keep things bright around you.

toxic people

Gossip monger – who is a carrier of half-truths, lies and quiet literally the news castor in your company.   The gossip monger has the uncanny knack of sucking you into their world of illusions and before you realize you are caught in their web of falsehood and lies. Just listening to their gossip may make you unwittingly a part of their story and at times become a casualty.

Narcissist – who is completely about ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘Myself’ and is always concerned about projecting himself as self-righteous and who has monopoly on the truth. He is also the one who will do anything to achieve personal success, even if it means trampling a few people on the way. They are not open to any input or feedback and believe in the adage ‘my way or the highway’ in all their transactions.

Manipulator – who would likely use information about you or the work you do for personal gains. The manipulator is one who can distort facts to get things moving in his favor. They also indulge in political behavior and are the one’s who would use your innocent sharing of information against you or for their benefit.

Cynic – is the one who can drain you of your energy and enthusiasm while doing any task. They transmit negativity wherever they go. They tell you how things won’t work out or can’t be done all the time. Such people can with their cynicism make you doubt your own abilities and can be a big drain on self-confidence.

Judgmental – are the people who are constantly judging you and the environment of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’. They are the people who have a stereotypical view of the world around them and try to impose their judgment on others.   They also judge before having complete information leading to lot of conflicts. The judgmental people are also fixated in their approach and are found to be inflexible. They see the world with the colored glasses they carry.

Arrogant – are the people who are condescending in their behavior with others. They consider others to be not as capable as they are, often ridiculing and passing snide remarks. They are the ‘know all’ of any subject and are not open to others. They move around carrying a sense of privilege .or entitlement.

Victim – is the person who is constantly projecting to you as to how the world is against him. Narrating story after story about the wrongs which are happening to him because of the office environment. They are constantly on the lookout for people who are willing to listen to their sob stories and offer their shoulder. They can at times take away a lot of your time and also manipulate your sensitive nature to derive personal benefits.

4 Steps in resolving conflicts in teams

Conflicts in teams can be a great source of change and innovation.

No matter what kind of team it is, no method of managing conflict will work without mutual respect and a willingness to disagree and resolve disagreements. Each person on the team must be willing to take the following four steps when a team meeting erupts into a storm: listen, acknowledge, respond, and resolve remaining

Listen: To hear what someone else is saying is not the same as listening. To listen effectively means clearing your mind of distractions and concentrating not only on the words but also on nonverbal gestures, which often convey ninety percent of what the person is trying to say. When resolving disagreements, you often have to deal with feelings first.Acknowledge: You can acknowledge people’s positions without agreeing with them. Show this with statements like, “I understand that you’re angry,” “If I understand you, you think we should”, or “Let’s explore your opinion further.” You may still disagree with them, but at least they know you’ve heard them.

Acknowledge: You can acknowledge people’s positions without agreeing with them. Show this with statements like, “I understand that you’re angry,” “If I understand you, you think we should”, or “Let’s explore your opinion further.” You may still disagree with them, but at least they know you’ve heard them.

Respond: You’ve listened and acknowledged what the other person is saying. Now it is your turn to be heard. If you’re offering criticism of your teammate’s ideas, make sure it’s constructive, and if you’re disagreeing with them, be ready to offer an alternative. Be willing, also, to be questioned or challenged, while avoiding defensiveness when you answer.

Resolve remaining differences: Define the real problem by looking for what’s causing the disagreement. Then analyze it into its manageable parts. Now you can generate alternative solutions to the problem and select the alternative on which everyone can agree.

For individuals to work effectively in teams they must be able to clearly communicate their ideas, to listen, and be willing to disagree. Although it is difficult, learning to appreciate each other’s differences reflects a team’s ability to manage conflict. When conflict occurs we must not turn our backs and hope it will go away. Instead, we must learn to tolerate it, even welcome it, for well-managed conflict can be the source of change and innovation.

Feedback, Story-telling and ways to build a Collaborative Living Environment

Why not create a ‘collaborative living environment’ than just a learning environment? How can you use ‘Feedback’ as a ‘story-telling’ tool to build relationships and a Collaborative Living Environment…?

Did you know that you can use ‘feedback’ as a tool for motivation and creating a collaborative living environment?

The use of feedback in most organizations is confined to the development of employees. Whether it is 1:1 feedback during performance review or 360 feeStorytelling-770x500dback, the emphasis lies on how you could help your employee in identifying areas of strength and weakness. This in turn lead to creation of personal development plans which are then subsequently reviewed on a periodic basis. While this is an essential part of performance management and development, feedback can also serve a higher purpose. That of creating a collaborative learning environment.

By sharing the stories and insights that emerge from a feedback session, you could create a climate where a feedback received by one employee can trigger lessons and story books for others to learn from. Both from a ‘success’ or ‘failure’ perspective.

You could end up writing a best seller if you care to tap into all the stories behind the success and failures of employees and convert them into books which can then be referred to by all. While you might be thinking, isn’t that what our ‘knowledge management’ system is doing right now? I see that most of such system tend to be focused on capturing the processes and mechanics of work which happen in the organization than the softer ‘human’ side of the story. Things like what each employee goes through mentally while achieving success or encountering failures. It’s like a mountaineer narrating his story about all that he had to go through before reaching the summit. Stories can ‘drive the emotions’ of your employees akin to what you go through while watching a gripping movie.

From the very beginning of mankind, stories have been the key to survival – Why not harness its potential?

If you are interested in getting stories directly into your inbox about how to create a more collaborative living environment in your company, you could subscribe by sending me a direct message with your mail id.

Why are people ‘stingy’ in their praise?

Why are people ‘stingy’ in their praise?

It’s often very easy for people to be ‘critical’ of others.  At the same time I find that people are very ‘stingy’ in their praise’.

PraiseWhat makes them this way?  Is it that they do not find themselves worthy of such praise?; or Is it that they feel that it will make the other complacent? or is it that they feel it will give the others a feeling of superiority? or simply we have been told from childhood that the only way to help and improve people is by ‘critical’ evaluation.

Whatever be the reason, I feel that a ‘praise’ or little ‘compliment’ goes a long way in making the day for others.  Instead of making them complacent, it surely will make them more ‘responsible’ in living up to the expectation of the person giving them that praise.  In fact every human looks for a daily does of praise which will keep him motivated and feeling worthy of his life.

Do not lie? Don’t you look for some yourself?  Don’t you feel delighted within when you receive praise?

Then why is it that you find it hard to dish out some ‘praise’ to others?

Don’t be stingy – give some praise!

I am looking for some from you as well 🙂