Reviving trust and team spirit

Reviving trust and team spirit

2023. February 20.

A few years ago, business owners were asked: “If you had to choose between having all your buildings and machinery burn down because of a fire versus having all your employees quit at once, which would be better?”

Almost everyone said they would prefer to lose the buildings and machinery, because rebuilding the human organization would require much more effort and would be much more difficult.

The crises of recent years have left many companies in a position where they have had to choose between people and profitability if they wanted to stay afloat. Some of these choices were painful, and sometimes the way in which they were made was bad for the people side of the business. As a result, trust, commitment, and team spirit all suffered. The buildings and machinery are there, but the people are not what they were.

As a result, employees are watching the actions of senior management than ever before, says Ken Blanchard, best-selling author and co-founder of Ken Blanchard Companies. “What people are trying to understand is: is the company only interested in the bottom line, or do they care as much about the people side of the business?”

Blanchard says, “If you look at the top executives of great organizations, you find that they make the business decisions that are necessary, but people still feel that their interests are being considered. In these companies, employees trust their leaders.”

Restoring trust takes time

Building or rebuilding trust can be a difficult task. It is not even possible to do it directly: trust is a by-product of the way our colleagues perceive our actions and intentions, over time. Neither senior managers nor immediate superiors at work can impose trust, as it can only be earned; but it is possible to – over time – rekindle a sense of respect and trust.

What can senior management do?

As a first step, it may be useful to look at where the organization is heading. What is the strategic direction and how will the company get there?

Create an attractive vision that defines or redefines the company’s activities. The bottom line: it should be clear that the customer is at the center and that should be everyone’s goal. During the last crisis, people observed how many leaders put themselves in the spotlight. In many companies, it seemed as if for senior management the company was nothing more than a means to satisfy their personal goals.

Another version of a weak vision – even if not as dramatic as selfishness – is a vision that says “the purpose of our existence is profit and nothing else”. These leaders begin to think that they were hired solely to make a profit. The message between the lines: the staff team is not essential – they are just a means to an end.

Without a clear vision, people can serve no one but themselves. When senior management creates a compelling vision of the future and aligns the organization’s goals and values to serve that vision, everyone can get moving in the right direction and focus their energy on the customer.

Advice for frontline managers

Frontline leaders are the implementers. They are responsible for understanding the vision, goals and values of the company and communicating them effectively to their employees. They need to make sure that each employee’s work is linked to an overall organizational or departmental goal and that employees see that their work has meaning and impact. Everyone needs their work to have meaning; it releases energy and boosts team spirit.

To gain the trust and respect of frontline staff, it is useful to have regular one-to-one meetings with them. These are designed to clarify expectations, solicit ideas and suggestions, answer questions and provide feedback. There’s no better way to show that we respect and appreciate our staff and their work than by spending time with them, observing their progress and helping them when necessary.

What about the employees?

Employees are responsible for ensuring that they have a clear understanding of the organization’s objectives and that they have the authority and resources to serve the customer. If they are unclear about the organization’s purpose or do not feel they have the tools to succeed, they should express their needs to their line managers. In effect, they need to put pressure on them on behalf of customers – to serve them better.


Trust and respect are the cornerstones of revitalizing organizational passion. Both line managers and senior managers should involve their staff in decisions that affect them as much as possible. By involving them, we send a message to our employees that we really care about what they think. When our employees feel this, they are more willing to trust their managers. But when they see their leaders going behind closed doors to make important decisions, they will feel that their opinions don’t matter. Companies that trust and respect their employees will involve them in the decision-making process.

To rebuild trust, we need to see our employees as business partners and respect their work and their suggestions. Senior managers need to create a clear vision that goes beyond themselves, so that they can subordinate everything to it. Frontline managers need to translate this vision into day-to-day goals and work and bring the values to life. Finally, staff must demand the resources needed to serve customers. When everyone in the company works together to achieve the goals and act on the values, you get a great, humane organization where both results and people matter.

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