Dear Drs. Graham and McDonald:

Your recent trust-building posts have been helpful. But I’m wondering if you would help me apply that advice to a problem with an employee we recently recruited from another firm.

The problem with this “rising star” is that she does a lot of multitasking during our team Zoom meetings – she turns her camera off so she can text and check emails. While her behavior is raising many eyebrows, I am nervous about correcting her so soon after hiring her. I don’t want her to think we have a super rule-bound environment.

If this isn’t too off-topic from your current theme on building trust, could you give me some advice?

Hesitant in Huntsville

Dear Hesitant,

Actually, your question is spot on, as it relates to The Braving Inventory’s first principle: Boundaries. Trust is built through boundary-setting conversations that clarify what’s okay and what’s not okay. When a leader doesn’t initiate these conversations early on, people may only learn years later that something they have always done was never okay. While it can be uncomfortable to tell your Rising Star that she is sending a negative message to the team by multitasking in team meetings, imagine her embarrassment when she realizes everyone was upset but no one told her. Having this conversation will also enhance your relationship with the rest of the team; they then know they can trust you to address a detrimental behavior.

Here are a few of our best tips on how to conduct clear, trust-building boundary conversations:

  • Be direct. Get to the point quickly. Beating around the bush builds tension.
  • Be affirmative. Confirm how important Rising Star is to the team. You might say something like, “We’re excited about the insights you’re bringing to our organization.”
  • Be specific. Define the boundary. “I know you have worked other places. And I know each company has different meeting expectations. We ask our employees to have their camera on during virtual meetings, and that you not check emails or texts during meetings so you can be fully present.”
  • Be positive. End with a brief affirmation. “I don’t want anything to hold you back. You have so much to offer our team.”

Hopefully, your boundary-setting conversation will solve the problem and build this employee’s trust in you. But if Rising Star doesn’t respect your boundary, a more difficult – and immediate — conversation will be necessary. While your words must feel right to you, here’s a starting idea: “I need to circle back to our conversation a few weeks ago about multitasking when on team Zoom calls. I noticed that it happened again today. Help me understand what is going on.”

It is important to listen and understand why Rising Star violated your clear boundary. Then you can support her in addressing issues hindering her full presence. It is necessary to reiterate that multitasking during the meeting is not ok, as it is detrimental to team trust.

We cover more specifics on boundary-setting and other trust-building practices through our Dare to Lead workshops. Join us for our next session, April 21-22.

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