5 Ways to Build Trust in Times of Crisis

In the world of business, crises are inevitable. Whether it’s a global pandemic, economic downturn, or internal turmoil, how leaders navigate these challenging times can make or break the trust within their organisations. Crises often amplify uncertainty and fear, making trust-building behaviours even more crucial for maintaining stability and encouraging resilience.

The Importance of Trust

Trust forms the bedrock of any successful organisation, serving as the cornerstone of strong relationships, effective collaboration, and organisational resilience. In times of crisis, trust becomes even more critical. When leaders prioritise trust-building behaviour, they lay the foundation for greater cohesion, innovation, and adaptability within their teams and organisations.

Strategies for Building Trust in Times of Crisis

Here are 5 ways leaders can navigate crises to create a culture of trust that endures even in the face of uncertainty.

  1. Show Empathy

Understand and acknowledge the heightened stress and anxiety felt by team members. Actively listen to their concerns and offer support. Empathy fosters stronger connections, builds trust, and enables teams to weather adversity with resilience and solidarity

  • Be Adaptable

Leaders must be agile and flexible in rapidly evolving situations. Make swift decisions, pivot strategies, and navigate uncertainty with confidence. Demonstrating adaptability inspires confidence in leadership’s ability to overcome challenges.

  • Be Transparent

Open and honest communication is key during times of crisis. Provide timely updates, acknowledge uncertainties, and offer clear guidance. By embracing transparency, leaders demonstrate integrity, build credibility, and foster an environment where open dialogue and collaboration thrive.

  • Be Authentic

Stay true to values, principles, and beliefs, even in adversity. Show vulnerability, admit mistakes, and share personal challenges. Authentic leadership builds trust, inspires confidence, and cultivates a culture of honesty, integrity, and mutual respect.

  •  Lead by Example

Actions speak louder than words in times of crisis. Leaders must embody the values and principles they espouse. By demonstrating integrity, resilience, and empathy in their actions, leaders inspire trust and confidence within their teams.

Effective leadership during times of crisis is essential for strengthening trust. By prioritising transparency, empathy, adaptability, authenticity, and leading by example, leaders can navigate challenges, inspire confidence, and foster a culture of trust that endures even in the face of uncertainty.

The fact is crises will always arise. It’s the nature of business. However, the lessons learned from adversity can serve as guiding principles for leaders committed to building trust and ensuring lasting success within their teams and organisations.

How Leaders Can Transform Teams with 10 Trust-Building Phrases

When it comes to corporate jargon, one phrase often echoes louder than most: “My door is always open”. Yet, too often, these words ring hollow, mere lip service to an ideal of accessibility that leaders struggle to embody. When leaders say one thing but demonstrate another through their actions, it creates a chasm of mistrust within the team – a divide that can undermine morale, collaboration, and ultimately, organisational success.

Consider this scenario: A team member hesitates to approach their manager with a problem, fearing judgment or dismissal. Despite the manager’s assurances of an open-door policy, the team member’s apprehension persists, leading to unresolved issues and diminished trust. This scenario illustrates a fundamental truth: trust is not just about the words we say, it’s about the actions we take.

While we tirelessly pursue productivity and profits, it’s crucial for leaders to remember that trust is the glue that binds teams together, the catalyst for innovation, and the cornerstone of organisational success. When it comes to building trust, the power of words – when backed by genuine actions – cannot be overstated.

Here are 10 trust-building phrases that every leader should use with sincerity and authenticity to create a culture of trust within their team or organisation.

1. “I appreciate your hard work.”

Recognising and acknowledging your team members’ efforts demonstrates appreciation and gratitude, fostering a positive work environment where employees feel valued and motivated to perform at their best.

2. “I trust your judgement.”

Empowering your team members to make decisions and exercise their judgement communicates confidence and respect, encouraging autonomy and initiative.

3. “How can I support you?”

Showing genuine concern for your team members’ well-being and offering support when needed creates a sense of trust and belonging, strengthening team cohesion and resilience.

4. “I’m here to listen.”

Creating a safe space for open communication and active listening allows team members to voice their concerns and ideas freely, building trust and fostering a culture of transparency and collaboration.

5. “Let’s collaborate on this.”

Encouraging teamwork and collaboration sends a powerful message of inclusivity and partnership, promoting a sense of ownership and shared responsibility among team members.

6. “I value your input.”

Seeking and incorporating feedback from your team members demonstrates respect and appreciation for their perspectives, builds trust and boosts engagement.

7. “I believe in your potential.”

Expressing confidence in your team members’ abilities and potential encourages growth and development, empowering them to reach their full potential and contribute to the team’s success.

8. “Thank you for your honesty.”

Acknowledging and appreciating honesty and transparency reinforces trust and integrity within the team, encouraging open communication and accountability.

9. “Your contribution is essential.”

Recognising the unique strengths and contributions of each team member reinforces their value and importance to the team, fostering a sense of belonging and commitment.

10. “I’ve got your back.”

Offering support and standing by your team members during challenging times builds trust and loyalty, creating a sense of security and camaraderie within the team.

Building trust is not a one-time event but an ongoing commitment that pays dividends in the long run. When leaders prioritise trust and back their words with consistent actions, they lay the groundwork for a workplace culture characterized by collaboration, innovation, and unwavering loyalty.

As you embark on your journey to foster trust within your team, remember that authenticity is key. Your team members are astute observers who can discern the sincerity behind your words and actions. By embodying the trust-building phrases discussed here – and infusing them with genuine care and concern for your team’s well-being – you can bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality, creating an environment where trust thrives, teams flourish and your organisation succeeds.

How to Cultivate Trust for a High-Performing Team 

As South Africans, our next election period is on our doorstep and with that, big decisions to make as to where one vests your trust, which party gets your vote. What is leadership, without trust and what does trust mean to you? Great leadership, at any level, hinges on trust.

Trust on a macro level is as important as trust within our organisations. Imagine a workplace where every step feels like tiptoeing through a minefield. Every decision you make is met with scepticism, and every interaction is clouded by doubt. Your team members second-guess your motives, and collaboration feels more like a battle of egos than a unified effort toward a common goal. This is the reality for many individuals working in environments without trust. 

Now, take a moment to reflect on your own team or organisation. Do you feel a sense of openness, collaboration, and mutual respect? Or do you sense an undercurrent of tension and uncertainty? If you find yourself leaning toward the latter, you are not alone. In today’s fast-paced and competitive business world, trust is often the casualty of high-pressure environments, conflicting priorities, and interpersonal dynamics.

But here’s the thing: trust isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s the cornerstone of high-performing teams and successful organisations. Without trust, communication breaks down, innovation stalls, and morale plummets. So, if you’re ready to transform your team’s success and unlock its full potential, it’s time to prioritise trust. Let Awakening Excellence (Pty Ltd), help you easily establish what the status is within your team or organisation with accurate and affordable workplace surveys.

Trust the Research 

Recent studies have emphasised the pivotal role of trust in organisational dynamics. A global survey conducted by Harvard Business School’s Institute for the Study of Business in Global Society and the Edelman Trust Institute found that amidst economic turbulence and global uncertainty, people are increasingly looking to their employers and business leaders as beacons of truth. Research published in Harvard Business Review reveals that people at high-trust companies report lower stress levels, higher energy at work, increased productivity, and greater overall satisfaction with their lives compared to those at low-trust organisations.

Strategies for Cultivating Trust

As a leader, you have the opportunity to cultivate trust within your team and organisation. Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Lead with Transparency: Share information openly and honestly with your team members. Transparency builds credibility and fosters trust by keeping everyone informed and aligned with organisational goals and priorities.

2. Demonstrate Authenticity: Lead by example and demonstrate authenticity in your interactions. Show vulnerability, acknowledge your mistakes, and communicate openly with your team. Seize every opportunity to build trust through genuine connections and mutual respect.

3. Be Reliably Consistent: Follow through on your commitments and demonstrate reliability in your actions. Consistency builds trust by establishing credibility and reliability, earning the respect and confidence of your team members. 

4. Provide Growth Opportunities: Invest in your team’s professional development and growth. Offer training, mentorship, and opportunities that allow them to develop new skills, expand their knowledge, and progress in their careers. This shows your commitment to their success and builds trust by demonstrating that you have their best interests at heart. 

5. Encourage Collaboration: Create opportunities for collaboration and teamwork within the team or organisation. Encourage team members to work together on projects, share knowledge and expertise, and support each other in achieving common goals. Collaboration fosters trust by promoting a sense of unity and shared purpose among team members.

Building trust within your team may not always be easy, especially in the face of organisational change or uncertainty. However, by addressing challenges head-on and proactively working to foster a culture of trust, you can overcome obstacles and drive positive outcomes. 

Remember, this is a journey that requires commitment, patience, and ongoing effort. I encourage you to embrace it with an open mind and a willingness to learn and grow. By prioritising trust-building initiatives and fostering a culture of transparency, authenticity, and reliability, you can create a high-performing team that thrives in a dynamic business environment. 

Warm regards,

Dr. Mariam Sha

MD at Awakening Excellence

#Trust #Leadership #Awakening Excellence

How to Recognise and Rise Above Imposter Syndrome

The nagging feeling of self-doubt, the paralysing fear of being exposed as a fraud, the persistent worry that your achievements are nothing but a stroke of luck. If these feelings resonate with you, you are not alone. Imposter Syndrome affects people from all walks of life, from fresh graduates to seasoned and celebrated professionals. The good news is you can overcome it. 

Recognising Imposter Syndrome in Yourself

Before taking the necessary steps to boost your self-confidence, it is vital to understand and recognise how Imposter Syndrome may manifest within you. Here are some signs that may indicate you are struggling with it: 

  • Perfectionism: The relentless pursuit of flawlessness. While striving for excellence is admirable, setting unattainable standards can lead to self-doubt.
  • Persistent Self-Doubt: You may doubt your abilities, second-guess your decisions, or feel like a fraud. 
  • Undermining Achievements: You believe your accomplishments are due to luck, not competence. You attribute your success to external factors rather than your abilities. 
  • Avoidance of Challenges: If you consistently shy away from new responsibilities or challenging tasks, it could be because of a fear of failure. This fear can prevent you from taking risks or stepping outside your comfort zone.
  • Overworking: You may work harder and longer to prove your worth or compensate for perceived shortcomings. This often stems from a fear of being exposed.
  • Difficulty Accepting Praise: You might struggle to accept compliments or downplay your achievements. 
  • Comparing Yourself to Others: Constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling inferior. You overlook your unique strengths and focus on perceived weaknesses.

Steps to Take to Rise Above Imposter Syndrome

If not properly managed, the behaviour above can be a roadblock to your success. Here are some practical steps to help you clear the path and conquer Imposter Syndrome: 

  • Self-Reflection and Acknowledgement: Take a moment to reflect on your accomplishments and recognise your skills. Create a list of your achievements and revisit it regularly to boost your confidence.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Avoid setting unattainable standards for yourself. Establish realistic, achievable goals and celebrate your successes along the way. 
  • Foster a Growth Mindset: Shift your focus from a fixed mindset, where you believe abilities are static, to a growth mindset, where you embrace challenges as opportunities for development.
  • Embrace Mistakes: Understand that making mistakes is a natural part of growth and learning. Instead of fearing them, see them as opportunities for improvement.
  • Challenge Negative Thoughts: When self-doubt creeps in, challenge those negative thoughts. Ask yourself for evidence to support these beliefs and consider more positive alternatives.
  • Track Your Achievements: Keep a journal and record your accomplishments and the positive feedback you receive. This tangible record can serve as a confidence booster.
  • Celebrate Your Wins: Don’t forget to celebrate your victories, no matter how small they may seem. Acknowledging your successes reinforces your confidence.

Imposter Syndrome does not have to define your journey. You can rise above it and be more self-assured. Remember, you are more capable than you sometimes believe. Embrace your achievements and your potential for growth, and step confidently into your future.

Are you struggling with Imposter Syndrome? 

Sharing your experience with someone you trust can provide valuable perspective and support. At Awakening Excellence, our certified coaches can help you transform your mindset and behaviour for your benefit and also for those you lead. Connect with us.  

Navigating Imposter Syndrome in the Boardroom

We often see the success stories, the confident strides, and the unshakeable leadership of top executives locally and abroad. We admire them for steering their organisations through turbulent waters with unwavering resolve. But what might surprise you is that beneath those powerful boardroom personas, many accomplished leaders have experienced a phenomenon known as Imposter Syndrome.

You have probably heard of it, or perhaps, even found yourself grappling with it— that nagging feeling that maybe, just maybe, you are not as capable as people think.

The fascinating truth is that Imposter Syndrome does not discriminate based on experience; it can haunt beginners and seasoned experts.

So, what triggers this all-too-common experience? Basically, Imposter Syndrome occurs when the pressure to perform at an exceptional level, coupled with the fear of being unmasked as less competent than we appear, leads to a relentless inner battle.

The Impact on Leadership Abilities

What we need to understand about Imposter Syndrome is that it is not just a personal struggle. It can have a ripple effect on our leadership abilities. It breeds hesitancy in decision-making, makes us shy away from taking calculated risks, and keeps us in a perpetual loop of second-guessing ourselves. This self-doubt filters down to our teams, affecting their performance and growth. As leaders, we set the tone. That tone needs to be one of confidence.

Becoming a More Confident Leader

On a personal level, as leaders, we must confront our own Imposter Syndrome. This involves recognising that self-doubt is a common human experience which does not define our worth or competence. Self-awareness is a powerful tool in this regard. When we can identify and acknowledge our insecurities, we are in a position to overcome them. Self-compassion plays a crucial role as well. It is okay to be imperfect, to make mistakes, and to seek help when needed. Remember, confidence doesn’t mean you have all the answers; it means you dare to keep learning and growing.

Strategies for Building a Confident Leadership Team

There are ways to ensure that our boardrooms are filled with confident leaders who can guide their teams effectively. It begins with cultivating a supportive workplace culture. We need to establish mentorship programmes that connect top-tier executives with experienced leaders who can offer guidance and wisdom. Organisations should also seek to develop specialised training programmes designed to address the unique challenges that high-ranking executives face. We must have robust support systems in place so leaders feel empowered to seek help.

Ultimately, Imposter Syndrome is a shared human experience that does not have to hold you back. It can be a catalyst for personal growth and self-discovery. As a leader (or one in the making), you have the power to shape your organisation, and with a confident, self-aware approach, you can promote a culture of success.

So, embrace your role with confidence. You deserve to be where you are, and you can inspire those around you and lead your team to great heights. Stay confident, lead with purpose, and always remember that you’re even more capable than you sometimes believe.

Imposter Syndrome’s Silver Lining: Turning Self-Doubt into Motivation

Imposter Syndrome is something many professionals battle with. It casts a shadow of self-doubt, making us question our abilities and achievements. But believe it or not, within Imposter Syndrome lies a hidden strength, a silver lining. Did you know that by shifting your perspective, you can turn self-doubt into a powerful motivator that drives you toward excellence?

Enter neuroplasticity, the brain’s incredible capacity to rewire itself. It plays a pivotal role in this transformation. Scientific research has shown that our brains can adapt and change based on our thoughts, experiences, and beliefs. Understanding neuroplasticity can help us rewire our minds, leverage Imposter Syndrome to our advantage, and develop a growth mindset.

A notable book by Dr. Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in motivation and mindset, focuses on the concept of a “growth mindset”. Dweck’s book explains how individuals with a growth mindset view challenges and failures as opportunities for learning and growth. They don’t consider their abilities as static. Instead, they believe in their potential to develop skills and talents over time. Adopting this mindset can be the key to turning self-doubt into something that can work for you rather than against you.

3 ways to turn self-doubt into a driver for excellence

1. Embrace the Challenge: Instead of retreating from opportunities, embrace them. Use doubt as a catalyst to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. With a growth mindset, every challenge becomes an avenue for personal and professional development.

2. Seek Feedback and Learn: Embrace feedback as a valuable source of information. Use it to pinpoint areas where you can improve, thereby transforming your self-doubt into fuel for progress.

3. Develop Resilience: Imposter Syndrome can make you vulnerable to stress and anxiety. However, when viewed from the right perspective, it becomes an opportunity to develop resilience and mental strength. Learn to bounce back from setbacks and use self-doubt as motivation for continuous improvement.

Imposter Syndrome is not an insurmountable obstacle but rather a challenge that can help you excel. By shifting your perspective, using the power of neuroplasticity, and adopting a growth mindset, you can rewire your mind to see self-doubt as an opportunity for growth and self-improvement.

As you do this, remember the words of Dr. Carol Dweck: “The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.” Choose to adopt a growth mindset, and you will discover that self-doubt is the silver lining that can light your path to your greatest achievements.


Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.


Awakening Excellence presents: Unconscious bias – including diversity 

Unconscious biases become ingrained over time, but through guidance, awareness, and motivation, we can re-write our programming and beliefs toward personal, professional and organisational betterment. The aim of this two-day workshop is to achieve well-developed relations based on respect for differences, awareness of our conditioning and tools and insights to eliminate oppressive (often unconscious) practices. 

Book now 


Making the business case for diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Nurturing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace is not only an ethical prerequisite, but a key driver of growth and success in every modern organisation. The business case for diversity and inclusion is clear: organisations that welcome a wide range of people from different backgrounds, cultures and circumstances, and that are accepting of people of different age groups, orientations and life choices, are on the right track for success. 

AE_D&I (1)

Diversity and inclusion: it’s time to walk the talk

South Africans are no strangers to the topic in general, but diversity and inclusion remains a challenging task to address in the workplace. Talking about our difference from an ethnic, age, background or cultural perspective can cause tension, which is why we tend to shy away from important conversations.  

At all levels of an organisation, being able to have these difficult conversations in a respectful, sensitive and open-minded manner is crucial. Not only does it allow for people to understand and empathise with one another, but embracing new and different people within an organisation supports the development of a more more cohesive, collaborative and engaged culture. 

It does away with outdates modes of working and thinking, and makes room for fresh, diverse perspectives that, at the end of the day, put businesses in a better position to be able to solve modern-day challenges, remain relevant, and perform at their peak.  

We’ve discussed the topic of Diversity and Inclusion at length over on the Awakening Excellence blog, where we include invaluable commentary from Devashnie Singh, Chief People Officer: South Africa at Grey Advertising Ltd/UK, as well as Marcel Kobilski, Divisional Director Human Resources at the City Lodge Hotel Group.  

I encourage you to engage with this topic in depth, and not simply as a tick-box exercise; for individuals and businesses operating in a country as historically steeped in racial and gender-related tension as South Africa, it’s vital that we start to do the work in our personal and professional capacities to move forward in positive ways, and embrace one another’s differences.  

As ever, I look forward to hearing your take.  

Warmest regards, 

Dr Mariam Sha, 

MD at Awakening Excellence 


Resolutions vs goals – why understanding the difference helps you achieve success

We’ve all been there – at the start of every new year, you peg your hopes for an improved life on a fresh new set of resolutions and promise yourself and everyone around that “this will be the year” you follow through.
You can resolve to make these changes, but achieving these things requires us to set SMART goals. Find out what this means and how you can implement these in your life in 2023 and beyond for success.