Trust and accountability in a remote workplace

Occupying a leadership position is not the same as leading. To lead, leaders must be able to connect, motivate, and inspire others, building trust and driving accountability. And as we continue the ongoing battle with the pandemic, leaders now have an even more compelling reason to strengthen their connections with employees.

Starting from self

According to a recent Harvard Business Review research, managers who cannot be in a face to face contact with their direct reports sometimes struggle to trust that their employees are indeed working. The same research suggests that many workers are also experiencing a strong sense that their manager doesn’t trust their ability to do the work.

To trust someone is about having confidence that they will follow through on their responsibilities. Frustration typically occurs when that person isn’t holding themselves, or being held, accountable, and it can take place at any level, regardless of title. However, lack of accountability is often unintentional. More often, it’s the result of unclear roles and responsibilities, limited resources, poor strategy, or unrealistic goals. Therefore, when employees need a push to get better results, the best approach is to tackle the issue with a leadership mindset.

When a work issue becomes stressful, pointing outward and blaming others is a common first instinct. But to have a productive conversation, leaders need to first consider if they may be contributing to the problem, even if it’s unintentional. Instead of looking at the reasons’ why employees are not contributing on their part, leaders need to consider what they can do differently to help them succeed. Listening, paying attention, and understanding the needs and motivations of the employee will help them put aside any assumptions about the reasons behind their behaviours, and discover that they might need more feedback to do their best work, or that other obstacles are holding them back.

If leaders can demonstrate empathy, and work towards a mutual commitment around a goal, followed by a brainstorm and agreement to some concrete next steps, they are committing to setting their employees up for success. It’s easy to express frustration around an issue, however leaders who harness self-awareness and empathy not only find effective solutions but also build winning teams.

The new leadership currency

Instead of power, trust is increasingly becoming the new leadership currency. A recent study suggests that over 80 percent of senior leaders believe a high trust culture is critical to attracting and retaining top talent, building customer loyalty and achieving sustainable bottom-line performance.

Self-awareness is a leadership superpower and reflecting in this way can help to recognise any unhelpful patterns that leaders can fall into. Successful leaders and employees own their decisions and hold themselves accountable for what they accomplish, instead of blaming others and finding excuses for failures. They reframe any setbacks as learning opportunities, and they act proactively rather than reactively to the challenges they face. Failure doesn’t prevent them from trying again, it only shows them how to correct the course to succeed.

Before the pandemic, the converging trends of technology, diversity and generational differences were already disrupting our way of working, but the current magnitude of uncertainty leaders and organisations are facing is accelerating the need for continuous learning and flexible responses even further. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at